Fashion law is a small field in Canada. Few have written academically on the topic; even fewer practice fashion law daily. However, fashion overlaps well-established areas of law including intellectual property, brand and enterprise management, labour and human resources, competition, commercial law, consumer law, environmental law, and now, the regulation of Internet and artificial intelligence (AI).

Running a fashion business is incredibly hard; running one from Canada is harder. Having spent a decade working in fashion in Toronto, I have witnessed the hurdles fashion entrepreneurs face in building and growing lucrative brands. Design schools rarely teach the business of fashion, therefore entrepreneurs (if they formally studied at all) seldom know how to turn their creativity into profit. Creating apparel/accessories is expensive, material intensive, and time consuming; especially in Canada where apparel manufacturers are scarce and often demand production runs far larger than most brands wish to produce. Moreover, cheaper production locales often do not guarantee the same ethical, safe, and sustainable production that Canada’s regulatory environment provides. Therefore, designers seeking to produce locally and ethically tend to do ‘made-to-order' but this raises the costs of their products far beyond their competitors, reducing their potential customer base. Marketing, PR, and website management are also expensive and time consuming. Designers who solely wish to create often neglect crucial promotional strategies, further reducing their discoverability to customers. The brands that do invest their already limited budgets on advertising agencies are left with fewer resources to funnel into other business aspects. No matter how you slice it Canadian designers have been left between a rock and a hard place when it comes to accessing the funds and business development resources they need to produce, promote, and grow their businesses on the international stage.

But that’s not all.

Canadian fashion entrepreneurs have spent decades fending for themselves in the absence of a consistent and effective platform for promoting their businesses to the world. New York Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, and Paris Fashion Week are globally recognized centres for establishing trends and the brands to watch season after season. Fashion weeks have been alive in these major cities since as early as the 1700s. By contrast, Canada’s most organized fashion week, Toronto Fashion Week (TFW), only began in 1999 and has been bought, cancelled, sold, reiterated, bought and sold again, more times than anyone cares to count. Post-COVID, TFW is now defunct. Montreal and Vancouver offer similar fashion week platforms, but designers often lack the funds to travel extensively. These events also do not have the global impact of New York, Paris or London, who continuously introduce brands that go on to reach international acclaim, and household name status. Incredible organizations like the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards, Fashion Art Toronto, and Indigenous Fashion Arts try to provide a global platform for Canadian design talent but none of them offer financial supports anywhere close to what American designers receive from the Council for Fashion Designers of America or British designers receive from the British Fashion Council.

CIPPIC’s interest in fashion law is equally multi-faceted. Canadians interact with fashion everyday: we all wear clothes. Today, fashion brands and the Internet are inseparable. From AI streamlining fashion manufacturing to customer service chatbots and fitting room holograms, fashion is rapidly adopting emerging technologies in innovative ways. Burberry and Gucci are optimizing the Metaverse for retail and to extend their brand storytelling. There is now a Metaverse Fashion Week. Brands are designing collections for virtual world avatars and creating exclusive products and experiences only accessible via NFT (non-fungible token). As technology and Internet regulation further complexifies the business of fashion, entrepreneurs will increasingly turn to legal counsel to help them navigate.

These activities merging fashion, law, and technology also raise public interest concerns. CIPPIC consistently advocates in the public interest for policy that advances innovation in law, technology, and society. We frequently intervene in litigation that implicates Canadian creators and businesses. Our goal is always to advocate for innovation that responds to the needs of the wider public. Ensuring Canadian fashion businesses can thrive at home and abroad falls steadfastly within this mandate.

With this in mind, this post launches CIPPIC's first blog series explicitly on fashion law! As the fashion industry embraces e-commerce, digital marketing, and IP protection online, there are growing legal challenges and policy issues around privacy, data security, copyright, trademark enforcement,1 and online consumer rights. In this fashion law series, CIPPIC aims to address these complex legal landscapes, ensuring the rights and interests of creators, consumers, and businesses are protected in the digital realm, fostering a fair and innovative online environment for the fashion industry in Canada.