I attended the panel discussion on “Asian Americans in the Fashion Industry” at Columbia University this past Sunday evening. Joe Zee, Phillip Lim, Carol Lim & Humberto Leon (co-founders of Opening Ceremony), Tina Chai and other fashion notables spoke to a packed auditorium of students. They all wanted to know one thing: how to break into the industry.
One young woman in the audience was already working as a lawyer. She wasn’t happy and she was concerned about the feasibility of switching professions so late. Tina Chai (who had done an internship at a law firm) and Carol Lim (who had been an investment banker) both encouraged her to pursue a career in fashion law, a field that is getting more complex. It appears that a gap in the industry is now being addressed.
Fordham Law School’s creating a new Fashion Law Institute, the first such center ever dedicated to fashion law. Its mission will be two-fold: to train lawyers who are interested in representing the fashion industry and to provide support to emerging designers and students.
The CFDA’s providing financial backing to the Institute and Diane von Furstenberg told WWD, “We need lawyers, and it’s very nice to have people who want to specialize in law for the fashion business.”
The Institute will also dispense free legal advice to students and designers. Designers and the creative forces behind fashion are going to need to be fluent in the language of the business and this Institute sounds like it will be an invaluable resource for them in this awful economic environment.