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Fashion Lawyer September 2021 2021-10-01T14:30:53-08:00

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How to sell your fashion and luxury wares on the other side of the pond, at high margins, despite taxes and duties as well as stringent health & safety regulations?

Author’s note: Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this draft article may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of its author. The right of Annabelle Gauberti to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

© Annabelle Gauberti, 2021

How to sell your fashion and luxury wares on the other side of the pond, at high margins, despite taxes and duties as well as stringent health & safety regulations?

In the globalisation age, fashion and luxury brands aspire to doing business everywhere, servicing their retail clients on each continent.

Yet, trade and geographical barriers are still in place, and even increased during the inward-looking Trump era in the US and Brexit transition in the UK, making smooth and seamless fashion and luxury purchase transactions a challenge.

So, what is the best approach, in the post-COVID, post-Trump, and post-Brexit world, to sell your fashion and luxury wares around the world, while making high margins?

1/ Selling fashion products between the US and Europe, via your own e-commerce sites, at a profit: “How To” Guide

In an age stricken by lockdowns and compulsory sanitary passes induced by COVID, online sales are a life saver. They took off during the pandemic and retail customers have now gotten used to shopping online.

It is therefore time to make your ecommerce site, as well as social media accounts, as attractive, and user-friendly, as possible. This way, you may capitalise on this online shopping spree, provided that you offer free worldwide shipping and returns, 24/7 customer service and a faultless and enjoyable electronic buying experience.

1/1/ Consumer protection on distance-selling transactions

One thing to bear in mind, though. While there is no singular or specific law governing e-commerce by retailers or any other seller of goods or services via the internet, in the US, it is a distribution channel which is tightly regulated in the European Union (“EU”) and the UK.

In particular, national laws transposing the EU directive 2011/83 on consumer rights, which aims at achieving a real business-to-consumer internal market, striking the right balance between a high level of consumer protection and the competitiveness of businesses, apply in the 27 EU member-states and in the UK, as “retained EU law” (i.e. a new type of UK law filling the gap where EU law used to be, pursuant to the EU withdrawal act 2018).

Thanks to these EU and UK national laws, the withdrawal period during which a consumer may withdraw from the sale, has been extended from 7 to 14 days. They introduced the use of a standard form, that can be used by consumers to exercise their withdrawal rights. Such form must be made available to consumers online or sent to them before the contract is entered into. If a consumer exercises this withdrawal right, the business must refund the consumer for all amounts paid, including delivery costs, within a period of 14 calendar days.

If your US fashion or luxury brand wants to sell, online, to European consumers, it must comply with those above-mentioned EU and UK national laws protecting consumers.

So, your best bet is to adopt a best practice approach, offering the same level of consumer protection rights to all your clients, all over the world, which will be in compliance with the high standards imposed by the EU and UK national laws transposing the EU directive 2011/83 on consumer rights.

 

1/2/ General data protection regulation and privacy

Also, Europeans are quite touchy with regards to their personal data and how businesses manage it.

The General data protection regulation (“GDPR”), adopted in April 2016, reflects these concerns and how they are addressed in the EU and the UK.

As a result, e-commerce stores, which target the EU and UK markets, must have a data privacy policy, as well as a cookies policy, as well as some general terms and conditions of use of their e-commerce website, as well as some general terms and conditions of sale on their e-commerce website, which all comply with the GDPR and national data protection laws such as the French “loi informatique et libertes” and the UK data protection act 2018.

In addition, companies offering products and services to EU and UK consumers must appoint a data protection officer, ensuring that they:

  • comply with such data protection legal framework,
  • have a systemic and quick process in place, should they suffer from a data breach or some hacking issues of their e-commerce website, and
  • have a designated point of contact, who will liaise with the EU or UK data protection authority, such as the “Commission informatiques et Libertes” (“CNIL”) in France, or the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) in the UK.

Again, perhaps the best approach, for any fashion and luxury business with global ambitions, is to set up a data protection policy worldwide, which will apply to all its customers globally, and which will meet the high standards imposed by the GDPR.

While it may be a steep learning curve to bring your ecommerce website and business up to these standards, doing so will allow your fashion brand to build more of a reputation, coming across as a deeply respectful company, in tune with consumers’ needs and concerns with respect to data protection and privacy.

1/3/ Value added tax

Online sales are taxed in the same way than sales in brick-and-mortal retail stores, in the EU and the UK: they are all subjected to a 20 percent value added tax (“VAT”) rate. It is the standard VAT rate in France and the UK and is applicable on all fashion and luxury products.

Indeed, since July 2021, all e-commerce purchases, even those made by retailers based outside the EU or the UK, are subjected to VAT. While there used to be an exemption of VAT, for goods imported in the EU, and sold for less than 22 Euros, they are no longer exonerated of VAT.

So, what does this mean, practically, for a US fashion business that sells its wares via e-commerce in Europe? It must register with the Import one-stop shop (“IOSS”), to comply with its VAT e-commerce obligations on distance sales of imported goods. And it must charge VAT on all fashion goods imported to the EU.

1/4/ Import duties

If the VAT and import duties (or trade tariffs) are not planned for, and paid promptly, when the imported fashion products enter the EU or UK, this will cause customs delays, slow your delivery time and negatively impact your customer’s experience.

It is therefore essential to clarify from the outset, with your EU or UK customer, who is in charge of bearing those costs, and how. These additional costs, and the responsibility for paying these, must be clearly communicated on your e-commerce website and/or social channels, as well as at the checkout.

Generally, the customs clearance process is more or less the same in all EU countries. As far as shipping documents go, a commercial invoice and air waybill are required for all international shipments.

Personal shipments of low-value, unregulated goods can usually clear customs without any additional documentation.

However, fashion brands in non-EU countries will need an Economic operators registration and identification number (“EORI number”), if they will be making customs declarations for shipments to EU countries. Shippers based outside the EU can request the EORI number from the customs authority in the EU country where they first lodge a customs declaration.

Customs duties will be charged for shipments valued over 150 Euros.

As a US fashion or luxury brand keen to do business in the EU and the UK, you need to adapt your e-commerce website, by adding some information and checkout options relating to VAT and custom duties, and by adding appropriate terms and conditions’ webpages, compliant with the GDPR and EU laws on consumer protection during distance-selling transactions. This will be a winning recipe for your European conquest.

2/ Selling fashion products from the US to Europe, via third party e-commerce sites: the holy grail

When you sell your fashion wares via third party ecommerce websites, as a US business, you somehow delegate the above-mentioned EU and UK compliance issues to someone else.

Indeed, it will be down to the MyTheresa, Net-a-Porter, TheOutnet and MatchesFashion of this world to have all their ducks in a row, in order to comply with EU regulations.

However, you still have to focus on two main points, when selling your products via third party ecommerce sites.

Firstly, a working capital consideration: are you ready to accept consignment, or do you only do wholesale? In other words, will you get paid only if and when your product is sold by the e-commerce platform, or will you get paid for the product, by this third-party retailer, whether or not it sells on the online retail store?

Secondly, are your products compliant with EU regulations relating to product safety rules and standards? This is especially true if you are selling high risk products such as jewellery (in direct contact with the skin) or children’s apparel and jewellery. For example, the EU REACH regulation limits the concentration of lead in jewellery and other articles, while US jewellery companies have no such limitations on their internal market. It is therefore essential for your US fashion and luxury brand to double-check, before exporting to the EU or the UK, that your products comply with these EU and UK product safety rules and standards, especially now that class action lawsuits are allowed in Europe.

3/ Selling US fashion products via European brick & mortar retailers & stockists: the traditional route

 

During the European seasonal fashion tradeshows, such as Pitti and White, in Italy, and Tranoi, Man/Woman and Premiere Classe in Paris, France, your US brand may meet some European stockists interested in selling your wares in their EU or UK brick-and-mortar retail stores.

This is a great opportunity to showcase your US brand to European consumers and should be embraced with “cautious celebration”. Indeed, while the two above-mentioned considerations of consignment vs wholesale, and of compliance with EU product safety rules and standards, should be taken into account, a proper discussion about the retail channels of the EU or UK brick & mortar stores also needs to take place.

Does the EU or UK stockist intend to sell solely in their physical store, or also online, on their e-commerce boutique? Under article 101 of the treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”), luxury and fashion brands cannot ban their distributors from selling their products online, through ecommerce, as this would be a competition law breach, deemed to be an “anticompetitive restriction”. However, luxury and fashion brands may impose some criteria and conditions to their stockists, to be able to sell their products online, in order to preserve the luxury aura and prestige of their products sold online, via the terms of their distribution agreements.

Indeed, these above-mentioned discussions and conditions could be the premises of setting up a selective distribution network for your US brand in Europe. Selective distribution is the most-used distribution technique for perfumes, cosmetics, leather accessories and ready-to-wear in Europe. It escapes the qualification of anticompetitive agreement, under article 101(3) of the TFEU, via a vertical agreement block exemption.

If you decide to appoint an agent, or a distributor, for the EU and UK territories, so that they find more stockists for your products in their geographical territories, your fashion brand must have a clear distribution plan in place, which needs to be set out in their agency agreement or distribution agreement. This way, your agent or distributor will be able to implement this distribution strategy, according to your guidelines and its contractual undertakings, in the designated EU or UK territory.

4/ What’s in the works, with a global tax for digital platforms? How is that going to affect fashion and luxury brands worldwide?

Earlier this year, after the election of Joe Biden, we have heard a lot about an agreement on the corporate taxation of multinationals, paving the way to create new rules for the imposition of levies on the world’s largest companies.

This is because European governments, and businesses, are fed up with US multinationals, such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Starbucks and Apple, not paying corporate tax on their soil, but solely in the US and/or in European tax havens such as Ireland (which corporate tax rate is among the lowest in Europe at 12.5 percent).

The French government went as far as setting up its own unilateral digital services tax, at a 3% rate, which applies to social networks, search engines, intermediaries such as online selling platforms, digital services, online retailers, since December 2020.

In July 2021, 130 countries and jurisdictions, representing more than 90% of global GDP, had joined a new plan to reform international taxation rules and ensure that multinational companies pay a fair share of tax, wherever they operate, according to the OECD. If these reforms take place, taxing rights on more than USD100 billion of profit are expected to be reallocated to market jurisdictions each year, while the global minimum corporate tax will be at a rate of at least 15% and will generate around USD150 billion in additional global tax revenues annually.

While these global tax reforms may not affect the P&L of fashion and luxury brands directly, it will definitely impact the tax burden of their digital distributors, marketplaces and channels, around the world.

These tax reforms will level the playing field, ensuring that wealth is redistributed more fairly, while globalisation and fashion distribution continue their ineluctable growth and expansion.

The Green, Blue and Orange Economies and their Influence on the Fashion Industry

The Green, Blue and Orange Economies and their Influence on the Fashion Industry

Annalucia Fasson Llosa

Partner of the corporate area and head of the fashion and retail law department of Muñiz, Olaya, Meléndez, Castro, Ono & Herrera Abogados.

Fashion law is a specialization of law that provides legal advice to all agents involved in the fashion, textile and fashion retail industry such as shopping malls, textile companies, designers, fast fashion, fashion bloggers, influencers, models, and photographers. And by fashion we can not only refer to clothing but also to footwear, jewelry, perfumes, cosmetics, decoration, handbags, and sunglasses.

Within fashion law, a new movement called Sustainable Fashion has emerged which, although born several years ago as a result of the tragedy that happened on April 24, 2013 in a textile company in Bangladesh, has since spread worldwide. During this tragic fire in Bangladesh, more than one thousand people died, including women, children and illegals, evidencing the poor working conditions, 18 hour work days and exposure to hazardous substances that harmed the environment and the workers. Thus, Sustainable Fashion is closely linked to the Green Economy, since it respects labor and environmental standards, raises awareness of responsible consumption, and promotes the creation of triple impact companies that not only consider the economic aspect but also the social and environmental aspect.

Within sustainable fashion there are four subcategories, namely:

  1. Ethnic fashion that revalues the ancestral procedures and folklore of indigenous cultures and peoples, promoting craftsmanship;
  2. Ecological fashion that emphasizes the fight against pollution and promotes being eco-friendly, spreading business models such as recycling, upcycling, the sale of second-hand clothes or fashion sharing, which is a flat rate subscription where they deliver a monthly box of used clothes, and then return them and receive others.
  3. Ethical fashion that seeks respect for human rights, and seeks to uphold moral values, where it makes a connection with its consumer by connecting with movements such as Black Lives Matter, Me Too, the fight against anorexia, and female empowerment.
  4. Fashion Tech, which innovates in materials through the use of technology, such as the use of 3D printers to manufacture garments, anti-sweat and anti-ultraviolet light polo shirts, among others.

For some time now we have also been hearing about a new concept called the Blue Economy, which aims to use and make the best use of available natural resources, including their waste.

This concept was born with Gunter Pauli, who wrote a book called “The Blue Economy. 10 years. 100 innovations. 100 million jobs”, which proposes a production alternative based on our planet’s own natural resources, including the use of waste.

Thanks to this economic concept, “Blue Fashion” has been developed, which uses raw materials and marine by-products to promote sustainable business, reducing waste. On the other hand, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has an initiative called “Blue Growth”, which promotes the protection of communities that depend on fishing and its related industries.

That is to say, although the first use of fish is as food, the second use would be its skin, turning it into leather for the design of shoes, wallets, purses and clothing in general. For example, in Peru a brand called Qaya uses fish skin as raw material to make its products.

Card mobile money payment, coin finance transaction app, vector illustration. Smartphone digital transfer, online phone banking pay. Internet financial electronic service technology.

On the other hand, we have the emergence of the concept of the Orange Economy, which is associated with the fourth industrial revolution, since it consists of giving importance to creative industries. It is known with this color because creative activities are associated with orange.

It should be noted that in 2013, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) published the book “The Orange Economy: an infinite opportunity”, written by Felipe Buitrago Restrepo and Iván Duque Márquez, which is based on giving an economic value to the transformation of ideas into goods and services that are related to culture and is that in addition to the profitable part what the orange economy seeks is the promotion of culture.

In 2017, when Iván Duque Márquez became president of Colombia, he promoted the Law on the Orange Economy, which includes functional creations or creative industries, highlighting fashion through textiles, jewelry and handicrafts, among others.

This law promotes this sector, granting tax benefits for all creative and technological entrepreneurs and loans with longer terms and better rates for the development of creative industries, as well as promoting the issuance of orange bonds, i.e., investment funds that grant financing to these companies or ventures.

It is important that a lawyer specialized in fashion law, knows about these concepts to be able to advise their clients in a proper way, since sustainability in the fashion industry, textile and fashion retail, is no longer a trend but a reality. Respect for labor rights and human rights, and compliance with environmental standards must be on a fashion lawyer’s radar. Likewise, advising clients to obtain certificates that promote the use of organic materials and the fight against environmental pollution, will become increasingly common. A fashion lawyer  might also assist in the implementation of policies and principles of good corporate governance in enterprises and companies and provide legal advice on the incorporation and financing of fashion startups that aim to create disruptive business models, such as turning pineapple peel into piñatex leather (or using the skin of paiche fish from the Amazon to make handbags as the Rochi Kahn brand does). As our concept of luxury changes and new creative ways of reaching sustainability are implemented as business models, a fashion lawyer’s job is one of adaptability and forward thinking that will benefit not only a client but also society at large, and make a positive impact on the world.

Finally, I believe that the authorities should implement public policies and regulations that encourage green, blue and orange economies in which fashion is a part, which would positively influence not only the development of the fashion, textile and retail sector but also generate greater growth in the income of their respective countries.

Understanding the significant differences in the various options for fashion industry professionals in Canada and the United States allows people who want to make a move to choose the visa program that is best suited to their personal and professional lives and their future plans.

“Luxury Is Not Shouted Out But Noticed”

Interview with Marco Baldassari of Eleventy Milano

  1. Welcome, Marco, to the Global Fashion Lawyer, and congratulations on the recent opening of the Eleventy LA flagship store here in Beverly Hills! Having co-founded Eleventy in 2007 and serving as Artistic Director of the brand, tell us the story of how Eleventy came to be.

My professional career started at the age of 17 as an agent in the fashion industry. This experience in the field allowed me to learn the values and the incomparable techniques of Italian craftsmanship. It truly helped me to understand and absorb from the market the tastes and needs of the customers.

My passion/research for a high-quality product started from here, growing day after day, and led me to the desire to create my own brand, to be able to interpret and express the concepts and lifestyle in which I still believe today.

This is how Eleventy was born in 2007, in line with the idea of offering to the market a product that was not identifiable by a logo. From the very beginning it was characterized by a manufacturing of the highest quality, an expression of the real made in Italy.

  1. Like many European brands, Eleventy USA was born first in New York, five years ago, and then made its way to California. What do you think is the difference between east and west coast markets that makes this pattern so prominent, and why did Eleventy take this strategic approach? 

In all the United States the “Made in Italy” tag is very appreciated because it is considered synonymous with high design and quality. However, I think there is a difference in lifestyle between Americans of the west and east coast. It is also determined by a diversity of climate and cultural influences which have an impact on their purchasing behavior.
New York is a busier city, people always move fast, while life in California is more relaxed, nature and health are priorities and their consumption habits can be different.
With regard to the second question, we started from New York because it is one of the four big fashion capitals, along with Milan, Paris, and London.

  1. Eleventy is a pioneer in smart luxury and upmarket athleisure. What does this concept mean to you and why is it the future of luxury apparel?

I believe in the idea of a world where people aspire to become the best version of themselves through their actions and gestures. At Eleventy, we pride ourselves on believing in the importance of family values and the continuous search for the bright side.

The Eleventy collection is specifically designed with today’s wants and needs in mind. We like to make each new smart luxury collection as easy to wear as it is comfortable, and we focus on genuine investment items that transcend seasonal “fashion trends” and instead rely on the elements that make a person’s wardrobe both modern and timeless.

Smart luxury is a modern interpretation of one’s path in the world with a versatile and casual style.

  1. From a design perspective, what has been the greatest challenge in ensuring intellectual property protection of the pieces in your collections, both in the US and in Europe?

We used to work with exclusive colors and fabrics with refined textures that make the collection unique. Furthermore, our strength is selling a total outfit combining all the different categories. We protect ourselves in this way.

  1. I love Eleventy’s mantra, “Style and elegance are not seen but felt, while luxury is not shouted out but noticed”. In an era of showy labels where even old-school fashion houses have turned to streetwear, how do you get consumers who are ready to invest in luxury pieces to notice a brand that is more classic?

Eleventy represents a contemporary concept of smart luxury. It is not just a fashion style, but a real lifestyle that embraces the entire daily sphere: from work in the office to smart working, travel, and moments of relaxation. The identity of the brand is intertwined with the great tradition of being made in Italy: a unique heritage made of manual wisdom, creativity and passion that lives on in my collections, without neglecting the capacity for innovation and attention to modernity. This is an added value that is increasingly appreciated and valued around the world.

In the heart of the Los Angeles Fashion District, the   husband-and-wife team behind MAGID BERNARD, Magid Mehrabadi and Michele Bernard generously gave us a tour of their atelier. Magid is originally from Tehran, Iran. In 1977 he moved to New Orleans with the plan of completing his college education in the Crescent City. Michele was born and raised in New Orleans. The two met at the University of New Orleans, and the rest is history.

The MAGID BERNARD brand has a reputation for using exquisite European fabrics and for hand-craftsmanship. While visiting their atelier, the open jackets embroidered in Barcelona or the signature French lace unlined jackets among many other items quickly caught our attention.

MAGID BERNARD’s high profile clientele is diverse, including international clients among whom the engineered bias cut dresses are popular. Michele proudly expresses how they have dressed notable political figures, business leaders, celebrities, and social doyennes, including women at the White House and on the red carpet.

In addition to presenting a full collection at trunk shows twice yearly, the designers work individually with their clients to reinterpret and create each garment in the collection to the size, fit and requirements of the women wearing these spectacular pieces. Such a business model requires a very personal interaction with the client, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job, Michele affirms.

Most business owners agree that the beginning stages of their business are the most challenging. How did MAGID BERNARD start and what were the most relevant challenges you had to tackle?

Our biggest challenge was finding the right people and learning the tools of the trade, so to speak. Because we were in New Orleans, there was not a regular manufacturing pool in the garment industry that we could call upon. There was men’s manufacturing, but not women’s. We hired our first seamstress, Dorothy, who was terrific and patient with us. Her background had been in men’s manufacturing for 25 years. My [Michele’s] background was in altering men’s fine clothing, mostly European. As it often happens, she had a friend. That started a chain reaction. No one wants to recommend you as an employer unless they like working with you. And we loved working with Dorothy.

Next is to find the right representation. This is probably the hardest fit to find. Your rep needs to bring his, or her, expertise to your collection and vice versa. It is a symbiotic relationship. However, the most challenging part is the secondhand critiques from buyer to the rep to us. We were very fortunate that’s some friends in New Orleans wanted to introduce us to their friends and that is how our private clientele started. The best thing about having a private clientele is you hear what the customer wants, not what the store owner thinks and not what the rep thinks. It is a completely different way of moving forward. It meant we could be on a fast track with our wholesale business, because we knew who our customer was and we learned about fit. Fit is everything! Because we were successful with our private clientele, we were able to pass that information on to our reps and storeowners. This was a valuable position and was highly unusual in our business to have a wholesale business and a retail business, particularly at that time.

How did you make the decision to move the business from New Orleans to Los Angeles, and what made you choose Los Angeles over New York City?

It was apparent from 1983 that we needed to relocate to New York or Los Angeles to grow the business. There were advantages and disadvantages with both cities. We were in New York roughly every six weeks for 5 to 10 days, depending on if it was market week or a textile show. Los Angeles was more our speed and the sunshine finally won. Most importantly, we had been showing with a group of LA designers, which gave us an instant family here. We finally moved in 1989. We feel this is the most important decision we’ve made in our business. It was challenging, but it was the right thing to do, for us. Los Angeles was more inspiring and creative to us, and still is.

How is the Los Angeles Fashion District of today different from the one you found upon your move to Los Angeles in the 1980’s?

In 1989, the LA Fashion District was very much about manufacturing. And there were only a few show room buildings. In the old days, after 4:00 PM, it wasn’t safe. Now, there are more show rooms, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs and nightlife all within a few blocks that make up the real Fashion District. Much of the manufacturing has moved farther away, but still in LA County. The new Fashion District is safe and fun and a joy to come to. And our original office building is now The Ace Hotel!

 

What would you say makes MAGID BERNARD exclusive, considering you are in a very competitive field?

Firstly, our minds always go to the exclusive. We have exclusives on most of our textiles and everything is made in-house, under our guidance. We have a team, not just employees. We used to only sell to one store per state, and only boutiques, no majors. And we built our private clientele to be as important as the wholesale business. Most people think we only produce dressy clothing. We produce a well-rounded full collection. We love the people we work with. That was a major decision in our career and it has paid off in every way. The clients are happy and we are happy.

What items of MAGID BERNARD tend to be the most popular among your clientele?

Most recently, our coats, lined and unlined, have been the greatest sellers or greatly received. Any bias pieces, dresses and tops are always winners. Our bias pieces are built for someone who has a real body, someone with some curves, which is why the bias pieces are so successful!

The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously been hard on all fashion companies. Considering shows are a very important channel for MAGID BERNARD, how have you been able to stay afloat, and what are MAGID BERNARD’s plans for the immediate future?

Because we’ve known so many of our clients for so many years, we have been able to show certain clients our collection through FaceTime or zoom. We have had a few local clients come into the store, by appointment, with all the proper Covid requirements.

For the future, we look forward to traveling again and doing regular trunk shows with our devoted clientele. We welcome all new clients!

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Familial but Not Familiar: The New Future of Luxury Travel

In Conversation with Kimberley Cohen of Maisons Pariente

  1. Salut Kimberley! Thanks for chatting with me during your summer travels. You co-founded Maisons Pariente, a luxury hotel collection based in France, where you currently serve as Artistic Director. What differentiates the properties and experiences your brand offers from those of other hoteliers?  

Maisons Pariente was born from our vision to create more homestyle vacation hotels, combining chic design, attentive and discrete service, family values, and generosity, so that our guests can feel at home, and more connected and comfortable.

We developed our hotels as if they were our own private vacation homes. When guests stay at Maisons Pariente properties, we aspire to create unforgettable memories, where they enjoy the refined authenticity, total privacy, welcoming staff, and a contemporary atmosphere that is chic but laidback and never too formal. We want our hotels to feel like a home away from home. Every single detail of the guest experience has been carefully considered – from the scent of the spaces to the genre of music, perfect lighting, spa brand, comfortable mattresses, restaurant menus and everything in between…nothing is overlooked.

We differentiate ourselves by placing value in every detail. The decoration, for example, is the strongest asset of our hotels. Our team, from housekeeping to reception, display an exceptional attention to detail, pre-empting desires and anticipating the needs of guests. We like to say that we have a familial service, but never familiar. At Maisons Pariente, we put ourselves in the shoes of our guests to provide the ultimate experience. We take pride in our work with renowned residential designers who always draw inspiration from the authentic codes of the destination, creating an original yet rustic environment for guests.

  1. Given your background studying fashion manufacturing at FIDM here in LA, has your knowledge of the apparel industry been useful to your role of creating the aesthetics and atmosphere of Maisons Pariente hotels?

Absolutely! It really helped me focus on creating the identity of each hotel project and its positioning, like you would each season for a new fashion collection. Design and fashion are related, and manufacturing one or the other is very much similar. You must be sure to respect certain specifications, such as durability and comfort, and know that timing is of the essence! I am curious about the spirit of the times. Nothing is more exciting to me than imagining the atmosphere of a place; from the tableware to the signature olfactory, the choice of bedroom amenities, graphic design, website design, etc.… a special touch for our guests. I want the guests to have an amazing and memorable experience from the moment they enter the doors of our hotels.

What I learned in this industry is to stay away from trends. From my experience, what is in for fashion one season won’t necessarily be in next season. What is too fashionable will come out of fashion very quickly. When creating a hotel, you must anticipate how to stay relevant and create timeless and authentic atmospheres.

  1. In what ways have the various pandemic regulations impacted tourism? Has luxury tourism in particular suffered greater losses, or on the contrary are travelers now more than ever in need of five-star attention?

Suddenly we had to close our hotels all while making sure our guests and collaborators were able to return home safely.

For the first few months of the pandemic, we were all very scared with so much uncertainty. Luckily, the world got back on its feet little by little thanks to the vaccine. We were at a critical turning point because most of our customers were from overseas, particularly at Hotel Crillon le Brave in Provence, where the previous year 60% of our guests came from the United States, Canada, and the UK. None of those countries were allowed to travel to France. We had to advertise our hotel in the local French and European markets for guests. This summer, a year after the pandemic, we had our strongest season at both Southern France locations, with an occupancy rate of 98% in July and August at Hotel Lou Pinet in Saint Tropez.

In the big cities, five-star hotels have suffered substantially from the decrease in international clients, but in the South of France we really got hit hard. Travelers were longing for five-star attention with a feeling of comfort in an authentic setting surrounded by nature.

  1. Regarding expansion of the hotel collection, what kind of value can a local attorney add when projecting whether to develop a new property in a foreign jurisdiction? 

As of now we are only developing projects in France because we are surrounded by a team of advisors, lawyers, accountants, etc. We looked at projects across Europe but decided not to move forward with them since we didn’t have reliable associates to lean on and turn to in other foreign areas.

It is necessary to identify the challenges that would hinder bringing a project to life. It is also important to understand the law of the jurisdiction you are implementing your hotel into, because without it you won’t be able to build a sustainable business. The right attorney can save you a lot of time and money by advising and pointing out the obstacles and opportunities.

  1. Finally, what is your idea of a perfect vacation? What kind of music are you listening to and what are you wearing? 🙂

My perfect vacation would be “au soleil” in an authentic setting, surrounded by nature where I can choose how to spend my moments. I love to walk around small towns in the south of France, go to local markets and find distinctive artisanal clothing and jewelry, and take the time to read a good book.

Vacation and cuisine go together for me. My ideal vacation begins with a generous breakfast, followed by a delicious lunch, and a dinner with friends. I love to share food so I can try all the dishes on the menu. I also enjoy local experiences and will always look for atypical things to do in the areas I’m in, such as a hot air balloon ride near Crillon Le Brave or renting authentic 2CV Citroen to discover Saint Tropez and its surroundings. I love listening to one of our Maisons Pariente playlists on Spotify; my summer song was Brazilian soul from the knocks and Sofi Tukker. And I would be wearing an Attersee outfit and my favorite K Jacques sandals and  Maison Badigo bag.

From Tech to Fashion:

Everyday Luxury for the Well-Dressed Professional

Interview with Ruti Zisser

  1. Welcome, Ruti, to the Global Fashion Lawyer. You are an Israeli-American designer, based in California, who has also lived throughout Europe. How has your international background impacted your artistic work today?Where we come from and where we dream of going is becoming a part of our DNA. This DNA doesn’t only impact ourselves but also our work. When I arrived in the US, I was quite surprised to find out that fashion here was defined by many rules: “You can’t wear white after Labor Day,” “You can’t wear sneakers to work,” etc. Not only fashion, but I also noticed an expectation that women needed to wear age-appropriate clothing. Even worse, that women needed to understand that beauty hurts—that they must give up comfort in the name of style and compromise sophistication for whatever is fashionable.

In Europe, I learned to appreciate the classics, quality over quantity, attention to detail, and the love of beauty.

In Israel, I learned that there is nothing you cannot do—that creativity can solve problems, that there are no rules, and that you should never say something is impossible. Maybe it is the startup nation aspect of the country; Israeli fashion is innovative and unique but often too carefree and edgy.

And then, in California, I learned to appreciate the love of people and caring for your neighbors, as well as nature. I truly learned the power of womanhood and that we can be there for each other. The importance of doing what is right and not only what is possible. Talking all of that out and balancing the three is what I think I am today as a person and a designer. I design cool clothing, yet it is flattering and comfortable and is made the right way.

2. Before founding Ruti, you worked as a technology executive. Did working in the tech sphere give you some intel on how to design the perfect collection with sustainable materials? Your designs feel like no other when I wear them!

Indeed, my career didn’t start in fashion. In my late twenties and early thirties, I worked in the tech industry. I was never satisfied and happy while working in tech. For many years, I never had the courage to admit to myself and the people around me that my heart was in a different place, far away from algorithms and artificial intelligence. The world of technology was not for me; I’ve always preferred the human touch.

Being in technology felt, in the beginning, like a mistake. Yet now, in retrospect, it inspired me to realize that technology can be the missing link in solving huge issues. I also love simplicity, and technology often enables it.

The bottom line is, I felt that not starting out right away in fashion and going into technology gave me a huge advantage in the fashion industry—to be able to translate the ideas in my mind exactly (product, experience, operations, etc.) into an actual thing. Technology, when used right, is not the enemy but a very close ally. Technology enabled me to balance between opposing aspects and easily find solutions; to create sustainable yet comfortable clothing—flattering but cool, top quality yet accessible, and so much more.

3. I imagine the pandemic had some impact on your expansion. What does the future of your company look like in this new normal?

When Covid struck, I believed it was like a passing storm—the next few days would be tough, and then things would be back to normal. But Covid, as we all know, had a tremendous impact on business and my company. But I wasn’t ready to give up. I still remember the day I gathered my employees together and said that no one will ever kill our spirit. That we will take this opportunity (that was forced upon us) and build something even greater. Yes, my background in technology helped tremendously. We were among the first to come out with try-at-home solutions, virtual styling meetings, and lots of digital innovation.

We designed items our customers wanted and needed more than ever to not only feel sane but also to feel alive. Now, people order Ruti from all over the world. I get letters and photos from places I didn’t even know existed before. Our growth is now amazing, but I still remember the many, many tears. I will never forget the struggle.

4. If you had an in-house counsel on your team, would a transactional attorney or a litigator be more useful? What are the skills you look for in a good fashion lawyer?

I certainly plan to have in-house counsel. I learned the hard way that not everybody shares my ethics and love of people. We also touch on numerous legal aspects of employment, IP, real estate, litigation, consumer rights, and business—both national and international. So, yes, I have outstanding lawyers that I work with from different firms, but I do plan and dream of having in-house counsel not only for defense but also as a partner for growth very soon. I feel it is an area of opportunity regarding a consumer company such as Ruti.

5. What is the ideal Ruti ensemble for a female lawyer looking to feel powerful and comfortable?

It is not a secret that many of my clients are powerful women, and my professional female clients have become my close friends. And I feel that my life’s mission as a designer is to empower them in their work and their business lives without giving up that they are women who love being feminine when they want to, but also to look fashionable and cool at the same time. I feel they trust me in knowing that with Ruti, they can be both—look professional, yet chic. Wear appropriate items that are flattering yet stylish. Dress well yet care for the environment. My clients send me photos of them wearing my suits to conferences, courtrooms, board meetings, and minutes later, wearing the same outfit to meet with friends and dine out.

Yes, fashion can also be innovative and optimize complicated formulas. I love my customers very much and also want my lawyer to always look fearless yet beautiful. I feel that when they wear Ruti, I go along with them on their missions.

IN A FASHIONABLY TOKENIZED WORLD

Suit Up for the Fashion Metaverse.

Crypto veterans have built it. Creators are already monetizing it. Brands are trying to understand the value behind it. And now, we catch up on it.

Is this technology a fleeting trend or will it reshape the business of style and traditional rulesets to the core?

Innovative technologies and digitization of the physical world are disrupting longstanding centralized systems across market sectors. Recently, artificial intelligence and machine learning have been hyped to “restyle” the fashion industry. Today, we take one step further into the virtual world, arguably our inevitable reality of the future. As the pandemic has fueled the “online-everything shift” virtual experiences, environments and assets have become of exponentially growing interest. Investors, futurists, and executives view the so-called metaverse as the holy grail for interpersonal connection, entertainment, and profit. At the heart of the “mobile internet world” lies interactive personalization at scale.

New digital worlds are built on blockchain technology which can be thought of as massive transaction ledger. Each transaction, a block, must be mathematically validated by all participant nodes (i.e., computers hosting the blockchain) within the network, without human intervention. Once a transaction is verified a block is added to the ledger. This makes it a highly secure tool to authenticate transactions.

While the use of blockchain infrastructure in fashion is not as prevalent as in other industries, major luxury maisons are making significant headway in grasping the potential for the fashion business at large, as it will assist brands to protect their digital identities and goodwill.

  • Digitization & Agility of Supply Chain

Authenticity and transparency of blockchain records guarantee full disclosure of information throughout a fashion brand’s supply chain. Via “smart labels” – in form of QR codes attached to each textile asset – the entire supply network management, logistics, and operations become a traceable apparel ecosystem. Increasing sustainability pledges of fashion houses are also going to be verifiable.

LVMH, Prada and Richemont (Cartier) have developed the first blockchain platform in the luxury sector. The “Aura Blockchain Consortium”[1] allows to identify the provenance and ownership of their products (including re-sales). Thus, the removal of intermediaries improves processing efficiency and reduces operating costs.

  • IP Protection & Enforcement

Most importantly, blockchain technology offers a new path for brands to establish remedial measures against counterfeit products where large scale legal applications (e.g. limited IP protection of fashion designs in the US, first sale doctrine, conflicting governing laws and jurisdictions, etc.) tend to fail. “Tagging” a product during manufacturing with a unique identifier cryptographically signed by the brand will particularly benefit the booming online secondhand luxury marketplace in the fight against counterfeits.

  • Digital-only Fashion & NFTs

In 2019, Digital Fashion Houses changed course from selling “digital-only” fashion – garments which can be fitted and/or worn only by an individual’s online presence in the metaverse – directly to consumers to market items on the blockchain as a digital tradeable. Such an NFT (non-fungible token) is a unique digital asset. Once the token is created, or minted, it can’t be altered and exists in perpetuity within the ledger.

Even though traditional IP laws apply, different scenarios regarding ownership interests in NFTs push the boundaries of existing legal systems and principles. Minting an NFT, means to create a derivative work, a unique hash on the blockchain and a hyperlink to the original asset. Therefore, misrepresenting the authorship to the underlying asset likely constitutes copyright infringement, subject to a fair use argument. Ownership considerations of digital assets can get tricky quickly. For instance, does a gamer who customizes a gaming character with digital garments remain the owner of the design or does the gaming company take ownership? And how are contractual issues solved when said gaming platform no longer exists? Similar legal issues are going to be raised relating to NFTs and the highly viable resale market. The secondary marketplace poses an invaluable opportunity for artists to reach maximum monetization as they receive royalties for each subsequent sale.

  • Smart Contracts & Computability of the Law

The lack of laws regulating cryptographic assets lead to an elevated focus on contractual provisions. This is where smart contracts (“SC”) come into play. It is the self-executory nature that creates an endogenous crypto-legal structure for transactions. Yet, an SC is NOT a legal contract. It is an agreement that exists in the form of software code in programming language implemented on the blockchain, such as Ethereum, which enables it to run autonomously. Some SCs prevent transactions from going through until certain preconditions are satisfied, such as payment of royalties on the resale of an NFT. More often, marketplaces are encoded to also enforce SC royalty obligations, whereby upon resale a percentage of the resale price is automatically transferred to the original seller.

The combination of NFTs and SCs establishes a “certificate of authenticity” for ownership of an asset. Small and medium-sized brands in the fashion industry will be able to use SCs as tool to track the transfer of IP ownership and protect their designs.

Technology will continue to change how we own, manage, archive, collect, promote, buy, and sell virtual wearables within flourishing metaverse worlds. Carefully curated online-closets are going to dictate our cyber-identities and “digital likenesses” will walk down the runways of the future. The paradigm shift in the marketplace will be determinative for the significance of IP laws and regulations over the decades to come.

How will you dress your avatar?

Happy cyber-shopping!

Which membership is right for you?

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Elegance Meets Practicality: The Ideal Workspace for Creative Entrepreneurs

Interview with Massimiliano Senise of Spring Place

  1. Ciao Massimiliano, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. As Partner of Est4te Four in charge of real estate development at Spring Place, we know you believe in the value of luxury workspaces. Tell us how SP grew from Tribeca to Beverly Hills.

Spring Place is a collaborative workspace and membership club dedicated chiefly to the arts, with fashion as the main theme. We connect creators, change makers, industry leaders and visionaries. Our community is based on a diverse and global gathering of minds and perspectives forged in the arts, business, culture and innovation. Opening in Los Angeles, the heart of the entertainment world, and closely surrounded by art, media and fashion, was a natural evolution for the club. In addition, many of our members tend to be bicoastal between New York and Los Angeles. The club also functions as a home-away-from-home for the members to conduct their business across the country and host their friends for social gatherings.

  1. With membership at both clubs predominately among creatives in the fashion and entertainment industries, is Spring Place the shared workspace for artists? What about lawyers who are creative or entrepreneurial?

Anybody who has a creative or entrepreneurial spirit will have a place in our community. We definitely don’t pay particular attention to any specific label or any one category of career professional at Spring Place. I know this to be true since in a past life I was once an unimaginative lawyer myself!

  1. We all miss in-person networking, and to some level need it to grow our businesses and projects naturally. How is membership at a workspace like Spring Place useful for fashion designers and other creatives emerging from the pandemic?

It is clear that for most people the traditional office setting doesn’t work anymore, but it is even clearer that the creative crowds need–more than anybody else–a physical space where they can interact and collaborate in person. Spring Place’s role was always to promote and facilitate those interactions socially and businesswise through our daily programming, which is getting richer now that most of the pandemic restrictions have been lifted. We notice that our members are now eager to come back to the club to meet new people and work on new projects again. We help our members to make these new connections through panel discussions, workshops, premieres, tutorial classes and multicultural experiences. We are also amplifying our support of members’ businesses by adding an incubation/accelerator component to the club. Through the partnership with one of the most prominent incubators in the world based in Palo Alto, we are giving life to a new Spring Lab, in which all our members will have access to participate.

  1. Spring Place has the elegance of a social club like “Soho House” with the practicality of a work space like “We Work”. Does this hybrid model have a strong market, and do you anticipate global expansion?

The way that people work nowadays is different than how they used to work twenty years ago. Today, in addition to seeking  flexibility, many individuals desire a richer working environment helping them learn, connect, inspire, improve and obviously…have fun! Our model was conceived to respond to this new trend, so hopefully we will continue to be successful in our endeavor to bring like-minded people together in beautiful spaces. Spring Place is the expression of a community of world travelers, so global expansion is the natural evolution of the concept. Milan and Istanbul will be our first opening in 2022 with London and Paris shortly to follow.   Our intention is to grow organically and to provide a unique experience which takes some time. We are working to find the right locations and to build the correct programming for our community, which is a process. It is not our intention to open 15 locations hastily in 6 months (like in the model of WeWork) as we want to provide the highest quality experience possible to members!

  1. Lastly, we know Spring Studios, the go-to event space for all things art and fashion, is related to Spring Place. What has been the most memorable event you have attended there?

At Spring, we host many cool and culturally significant events from premieres, fashion shows, concerts and awards to talks by world leaders and more. I frankly don’t have one specific event in my mind, but I know which recurring event has a special place in my heart: New York Fashion Week.  As an Italian, it gives me great pride to see one of our culture’s greatest passions—the fashion industry–immersed in the forefront of our clubs in America.  These iconic shows really give life to our buildings and bring such a positive pulse to our community.  The combination of design, creativity, lights, camera, action, and of course, beautiful models, always provides a memorable experience at Spring and celebrates its true essence.

The Link Between Fashion and Psychology in the Legal Field

The Link Between Fashion and Psychology in the Legal Field

We live surrounded by lots of stimuli that dictate how we make choices. Let’s take some time to understand why this relationship between law practice and fashion is important. I am not referring to the practice of fashion law; it’s deeper than that. I want to emphasize the importance of our freedom to choose our attire, our style, and finally, being conscious consumers. If we are not making ourselves different, we will all be the same, driven by those external stimuli that push us into patterns of unconscious consumerism.

How do you make choices when it comes to your personal fashion style for your law practice?

I’d like to bring to light some aspects of choosing the style, in general. Our choices are dictated by our unconscious needs. For example, I’m very open to fashion, and I like the beauty and the spirit of fashion. When I was thirteen years old, I started creating my own clothing. I had so much passion inside of me, and I was so attracted to the world of fashion. I sewed my dresses by hand; I even made a bridal gown and sold it. Everything was beautiful at that moment. I was ready to be a fashion designer after finishing high school.

I was living with my father who, was a musician before becoming a priest, immediately told me, “you can’t do this! As an artist, you won’t have a future in this country.” It was the best advice given by his experience and perspective. Because I asked for his opinion, I also considered his opinion, seeing him at that moment as the authority. So, I chose a different path, law. More “serious,” more “significant” in society. I mention this to emphasize that there are needs that lead to our choices, but beliefs also play a very important role in our lives.

I want to invite you to ask yourself some questions. In your reality, who is the authority that guides you toward your choices? Are you influenced by social media? Models in fashion magazines? TV? News? Friends and/or family? I started sharing my story with you because I want to bring awareness to the importance of making choices from the authentic place within yourself.

I became a lawyer, and this choice not only changed my path but also shut down my connection with my passion! I saw lawyers wearing very formal clothing. I started believing that our image influenced our credibility. I was twenty-four years old when we (my sister and I) opened our own law firm. I started changing my style, and I was wearing glasses to appear older and more credible. One day I realized that my entire wardrobe was black with a little grey. I felt my sense of self had gone away from what was my true nature. I was trying to fit into the law profession. Have you ever had this feeling?

“Enclothed Cognition” is a term coined by psychologists Hajo Adams and Adam Galinsky. They discovered a direct correlation between your attire and your performance. People also can take on some of the characteristics of what they’re wearing.

When considering fashion, style, and law, take note of these four steps:

  1. Be aware.Ask yourself what you like, but please ask yourself why you like this dress/suit or style. Explore deeper what you think and how it makes you feel. Perhaps it reminds you of something that brings up emotions. Be truthful with yourself.
  2. Be curious.Research alternative styles, resources, stores, and magazines. You may discover something different about yourself. Action leads to results. Different actions bring you different results. Choose something you like without any reason, just because you like it.
  3. Observe.After you have the answer, ask yourself how it feels when you choose some things that fit your choices. Recognize what you like and don’t like about these choices. Maybe you like the colors or texture, but you don’t feel good in the pattern. Remain truthful with yourself. Remember your needs, what matters to you. Comfort? Fun?
  4. Make choices that are sustainable for you.Take into consideration your needs and beliefs. Honor the part in you that feels happy. Also, take into consideration your environment. Remember the halo effect. The first second you meet somebody they create an opinion of you. It’s different to make choices from a place of fear when you believe you are not credible. You have to make sure that there is a balance and you feel good and aligned with your values, but also with your work environment. When you own your style, there is an energy you transmit, and your confidence will rise up automatically.

I remember when, after many years of darkness, formalism, and the pain of stigma, I felt free, and I changed my style. I was “me” more than ever before! I was more than a lawyer.