This New Fashion Degree Is A Long Time Coming

Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.
When Susan Scafidi was a junior professor of intellectual property, she was told that fashion was too “girly” and “frivolous” to be taken seriously. When she questioned why fashion designers had little protection when it came to their work and designs, it seemed she was the only one asking. But as of this morning, Scafidi, along with Diane von Furstenberg, the CFDA, and Fordham University, has taken a major step to support the work of people in the fashion industry. They've introduced the world's first fashion law degree program.

As a part of Fordham Law School and the Fashion Law Institute, the program is intended for law students as well as professionals within the industry. Not only will the master's program teach lawyers how to understand and practice within the fashion industry — "the second-largest industry in the city," noted von Furstenberg during the introductory event this morning — but it will be a means of empowerment for any starting-out designer who wants to make a name for themselves (and to protect that name, as well).

"Designers get so screwed over," Scafidi tells us. She's witnessed first-hand how designers' intellectual property can be stolen without much recourse. Along with the many other hats young designers wear when creating their brands — including overseeing sales, marketing, and logistics — law is yet another aspect of business that's imperative to success. "We need to educate and bring in lawyers who know what they’re talking about," she says. This new degree intends to do both.

"Fifty years ago, there was no designer recognition," von Furstenberg said during the event at Fordham University, which overlooks Fashion Week's now former home, Lincoln Center. "That's why the CFDA was created." And, with today's announcement, the hope is that this degree will become just as integral to the industry.

Applications are now being accepted for the first semester of the Master's of Law in Fashion Law (for attorneys) and Master's of Studies in Law (for professionals within the fashion industry) — a one-year full-time program, or multiple years part-time — and classes will begin in the fall. Of course, we'd be remiss not to mention that this law school also comes with a law-school-sized tuition. It's priced at approximately $53,000 for the year. "The good news is that no one in fashion pays retail," jokes Scafidi. Fashion industry professionals will be able to earn their master's at a 25% discount. The school is also currently looking into developing scholarships.
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