Industry Expert: Withersworldwide
Whether you're an established brand or just getting your start in the industry, there is nothing quite like immersing yourself in the creative process and enjoying the freedom of imagination as a designer. But the fashion world isn't just about creation—from business models to legal system, there's a whole slew of components that veer far away from the artistic model.
That's why we've partnered with Withersworldwide to bring our NJAL+ designers the very best legal advice there is. As trusted advisors to successful people and businesses with complex legal needs, in good times and bad, Withersworldwide works to champion their clients' interests, locally and globally, from offices across the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific. We took a moment to chat with the team at Withersworldwide to learn more about their take on fashion law.
What do you do to illuminate and guide emerging designers through the intricacies of the legal machinations within fashion and beyond?
We take the time to get to know our designers' products and businesses and their unique commercial pressure points inside and out. We provide workshops covering commercial and intellectual property law basics as well as one-to-one practical, commercial, and bespoke advice. We are also a port of call for one-off questions for our clients as well as for more complex legal and commercial advisory work.
What are some of the basic insights and legal topics that creatives should arm themselves with as they enter the industry?
A crucial topic for creatives and designers is understanding ownership, protection, enforcement and sale of their intellectual property, such as their designs and marks. It is important to make sure all intellectual property is owned by the designer or company and hasn’t been created by a third party designer who has not assigned his work to the designer or company, has taken his pay cheque and cannot be found! It is also important to register intellectual property rights as far as legally and commercially possible.
What are some of the most common misconceptions?
The biggest misconception is that designers and creative businesses don’t need to think about legal issues at the outset. We often find clients come to us when something has gone wrong rather than seeking advice on ownership and protection at an early stage. You can save a lot of time and money by ensuring you protect your intellectual property before it is misused, in which case you may have a legal battle on your hands to get it back. Another big misconception is that if you pay someone to create something for you, you own it. This is not the case! Unless it is created in the course of employment, the creator of the work will own the intellectual property until it is effectively assigned to you in writing—even if you have paid them for the work.
How do you work to frame the legal system within the creative sector?
We ensure that our advice is commercial and relevant to each business. We never take a blanket, generic approach or dish out catch-all precedent documents. We act pragmatically and economically, prioritizing the needs of the business and giving clients shopping lists of legal workstreams depending on a client's budget. Ensuring IP is correctly owned and protected and putting in place proper contracts with third parties is crucial.
Do you feel as if you have a greater duty to empower designers to navigate the fashion marketplace? How does your work do so?
Yes, hugely. In order to navigate any space it is essential to understand the industry and the potential hurdles a designer may come across. We clearly map out the potential risks and all the options a designer has going forward from whatever point in their journey they are at. We have a wealth of experience in this area and have likely seen if not precisely the same scenario, at least a similar one before. This knowledge, familiarity, and understanding adds value to our advice and enables us to give clients rational, practical advice and real life examples to consider.