Fordham Fashion Law Institute

So You Want to Go to Fashion Law School?


Graduate schools are a great way to jump into another career or advance the one you have. I talked about the most common reasons to get a grad degree, but I'm going to take a step further and tell you more about what options are out there in my new school series.

Do you fancy yourself an Elle Woods from Legally Blonde? If law and fashion are both your passions, Fordham's new Fashion Law Institute which is backed by Diane von Furstenberg, may be the route you want to take. I talked to Susan Scafidi, founder of the world's first fashion law center, who told me more about the field.

SavvySugar: Is there a sense of stigma with fashion law?

Susan Scafaldi: I think there has been for a long time. The first several times that I taught a fashion law course, my first venture on my first day of class was the top 10 reasons not to take this course, and one of the reasons was you’re going to have something called fashion law on your transcript, and you’re going to have to go to interviews and explain exactly what that means. There is still a little bit of skepticism about what you might really learn in the course of fashion law. But in fact, when people really look at what we teach, they realize that it is a lot of very serious technical stuff, and they also realize that there are a lot of industries which have very specialized area of law. Industries like banking and banking law or health and health law, and the fashion industry is a trillion dollar industry, and a trillion little green bags can’t be wrong.

Savvy: What makes a good fashion lawyer?

SS: The very best fashion lawyers are good lawyers first. To be a great fashion lawyer, you really have to love the law, you really have to throw yourself into all of the basics of legal studies. Then added on top of that, you have to be willing to educate yourself about the fashion industry and about the business side of fashion.

So you want to be a fashion lawyer? Then, read on!

Savvy: How will this school revolutionize the fashion law industry?

SS: There has really been to date no industry that has called itself fashion law. What has happened is that of course fashion designers have needed lawyers, and of course, fashion houses have needed lawyers, but there is no way for them to go to a specialist in their field, so I think what’s going to happen going forward is that there will be more people trained to address the specific needs of fashion designers. This is really a cost saving measure for everyone if you can go to a lawyer who really understands your business, understands the needs of your business. There are a whole lot of things that you don’t have to spend time explaining, and you’re likely to get better service from someone who already understands what you need and already has a degree of education about your business. That’s true of almost any area of law; you would really like to go to someone who understands your needs.

Savvy: What are the job prospects like?

SS: I think that law firms have realized that this is a serious market, and law firms are starting to develop specialities in some of them in fashion law. I think another possibility is to go in-house — for someone to graduate from a law school, spend a couple of years in a law firm, and then spin off into working for a fashion house. I think even more creatively, there are jobs in the fashion industry that are not held by lawyers necessarily for which a law degree would be helpful. One classic example is a licensing director.

Savvy: Any advice for those thinking about going into fashion law?

SS: I think that the one caveat that I would give to anyone going into this field: it is absolutely the best thing for anyone to be able to combine their passions in one career. This is not the right career for somebody who really loves fashion, but their parents want them to go to law school. If that's the case, do what you love, do fashion, and explain it to your parents. Law school will always be there. You have to love both for this to work for you, because when it is two in the morning and you're an associate at a firm, you've got to love the law as well the fashion.

The fashion law institute is part of the Fordham law school, so you need to be admitted into Fordham before being able to enroll. You can either do it as part of your J.D. (law degree) or it can be an L.L.M., a masters degree for those who already have a J.D. If you don't have a law degree, and have no interest in getting one, another option is to take the school's Summer Intensive Fashion Law course, which will be open to the public and which, according to Scafidi, will be in the neighborhood of $4,000.

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