Douglas Hand, founding member of the law firm Hand Baldachin Amburgey LLP (HBA) and one of the few fashion lawyers in the United States, sat alongside a panel of designers for New York’s Luxury Law Summit session “What’s In A Name? Eponymous Fashion Brands” in November.
Fashion and lifestyle
Doug Hand's firm specialises in the representation of fashion and lifestyle companies such as Rag & Bone, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Anna Sui, Rodarte and Mansur Gabriel and he is a member of CFDA’s Business Advisory Committee, sits on the Advisory Board of the CFDA’s Incubator and is a member of the CFDA Fashion Awards Guild. He knows of what he speaks; Douglas has recently authored a book on The Laws Of Style published by the American Bar Association and directed at fellow lawyers on the ways to dress both in and out of the courtroom. A Southern Californian native, Doug is an adjunct professor of Fashion Law at both NYU School of Law and Cardozo School of Law and is on the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Couture Council and the Board of Advisors for Cardozo’s Fashion, Arts, Media and Entertainment (FAME) Law Center. As well as being awarded 2015 and 2016’s “Super Lawyer” accolade and Corporate Vision’s “Partner of the Year” for 2016, Douglas was named #8 on Observer’s 2017 American Menswear Power List. We spoke to him about changes and challenges in the fashion law industry.
Luxury Law Alliance: What would you say were three key challenges facing luxury businesses over the next five years?
Douglas Hand: Firstly, the continued shift in consumer habits will require increasingly novel forms of retail engagement. Secondly, the issue of brands focusing on products continuing to be considered “luxury” in an environment where more and more luxury consumers are spending on experience, not product, and thirdly, the continuing need to produce at the requisite level of quality in the face of the slow erosion (due to age) in reputable and skilful manufacturers.
LLA: If you had to name one single factor which will provide increased opportunities for the luxury sector over the next five years, what would it be?
DH: New forms of customer engagement.
LLA: Why do you think it’s important to bring in house legal counsel and law firms together to discuss business challenges facing the luxury sector at the Luxury Law Summit?
DH: It’s a global industry. As a fashion law practitioner in New York and LA, my colleagues are all over the globe. It’s important to have a single venue to see them and have a dialogue.
LLA: Do you see changes in the way that luxury business law teams are using outside counsel?
DH: Luxury business law teams seem to be outsourcing more, to more specialized law firms.
LLA: Do you expect to see more M&A activity in the luxury sector? And if so, why?
DH: Yes - the consolidation race seems to be on in the US, in particular with Capri Holdings, Tapestry and others looking to acquire portfolio companies.
LLA: More luxury brands are embracing the opportunities offered by new technologies – what do you think will be the next big thing in luxury brand retailing or product?
DH: I anticipate electronic sizing of the customer for made-to-measure that actually approximates a good tailor.
LLA: Considering design rights and copyright issues – do you think that luxury brands will be better or more poorly protected in five years’ time than they are now?
DH: It really depends upon what jurisdiction you are talking about. I think in the US, we’ll see an attempt to expand copyright law further into design, post-Star Athletica v Varsity Brands. In China, we should see continued recognition of foreign trademark rights, post-Dunhill v. Danhuoli and CFDA involvement.
LLA: Would you say that the luxury sector is behind or ahead of the game when it comes to cyber security? And why is this?
DH: I would say the luxury sector currently lags behind. I think there are so many moving parts in the fashion industry for brands to stay on top of, that most brands are just reactive, putting out fires. Few brands have gotten ahead on cyber security.
LLA: For eponymous fashion brands, what is the most common legal challenge?
DH: You know I have a lot to say about this, but the biggest challenge comes at M&A exit. It’s an excruciating decision of a founder and designer to sell of his/her name and legacy.