If you’re starting a fashion company, you need a singular sense of style and an entrepreneurial drive. You should also have an excellent legal team. In fact, the bigger your company becomes, the greater the need to lawyer up.
Controversies in the fashion world, some resulting in million-dollar lawsuits, show how the legal and fashion industries will always be intertwined. And both will never go out of style.
In the fashion industry, there’s a pattern of companies legally owning patterns
Many fashion brands are recognizable because of their well-known trademarked designs. This is why those who want to start their own fashion brand should steer clear of appropriating any element of the Louis Vuitton print, the letters YSL, or the Burberry check, to name a few. But sometimes, designers’ aesthetics overlap.
One corporate epic battle regarding trademark issues is between two of the world's largest fashion powerhouses, Gucci and Guess. The saga began in 2012, when Italian label Gucci sued their American counterpart for $4.7 million in damages after discovering that Guess designs were awfully similar to theirs.
After numerous costly court appearances spanning multiple countries around the globe, both brands eventually agreed on a settlement with all parties putting an end to this rather expensive chapter once and for all.
FYI, there is a sole trademark owner of red-soled shoes
As can be seen in Gucci vs. Guess, the fashion world spends a fortune creating unique designs. Registering the industrial design protects the owner's concept from being copied, whether that includes three-dimensional elements such as bag shape (e.g., the Birkin bag) or two-dimensional features like patterns.
In an ideal world, fashion designers everywhere should be able to rest easy knowing their ideas won’t be ripped off. But the fashion world is far from ideal.
In 2008, Christian Louboutin called dibs on his famous red-soled shoes, or “signature soles.” Fast forward three years and the designer had to call on their lawyers when Yves Saint Laurent was spotted selling suspiciously similar footwear in stores. Unsurprisingly, the house of Louboutins wasn’t too pleased with this turn of events, so they demanded a million-dollar damages payout and asked for an injunction against any further sales activity.
Sorry, YSL. It looks like you've been caught red-handed.
Designer vs. label
A falling out between a designer and their label is also not uncommon in the fashion industry.
In 2011, John Galliano became notorious in the fashion world because of his infamous antisemitic outburst. While this untimely incident cost him a high profile-job with Dior and damaged his career irreparably, he still sought justice. He filed a lawsuit against the company shortly after, seeking an eye-popping $18.8 million as compensation. Unsurprisingly though, it proved fruitless as the court dismissed all of Galliano's claims.
Controversial ad campaigns will always be in vogue
You may or may not know that in November this year, fashion company Balenciaga unleashed to the world a universally reviled ad campaign for their new products. The likes of Kim Kardashian and Julia Fox denounced the brand alongside people on Twitter with an opinion or ten about the label’s questionable ads.
In a nutshell, Balenciaga heated up the holidays with a campaign that put kids in BDSM accessories and outfits. The #cancelBalenciaga hashtag trended across social media, as outraged users accused Demna (the designer) of condoning the exploitation of children for the sake of fashion.
Balenciaga then apologized, but they subsequently filed a $25 million lawsuit against North Six, Inc. and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins, which concerns another controversial campaign.
Still, we think Balenciaga’s recent controversies pale in comparison to those generated by United Colors of Benetton’s AIDS- and death penalty-themed ads in the early ’90s.
Pain from beauty
The fashion industry is also no stranger to controversies concerning personal injuries.
Victoria Beckham is a household name in the fashion industry. However, her legacy may be facing some serious consequences in the form of a lawsuit by Kristina Kubiliene. In 2020, the 54-year-old pattern cutter alleged that she developed a career-ending hand injury from working excessively long hours of up to 15 hours per day during New York Fashion Week at Victoria Beckham Ltd.'s London studio. This allegation has been backed up with medical evidence requiring surgery on Kubiliene’s carpal tunnel syndrome and the claim that since leaving VBL (as its streetwise fans call it), she’s been unable to find other meaningful employment.
Need a fashionably dedicated and experienced legal team for your personal injury case in Washington State? Call attorneys Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams.