Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage
June 22, 2015

Law is “the most boring thing in the world,” said Diane von Furstenberg early Monday morning, to a roomful of lawyers. No one disagreed.

But the hundreds of designers who are in her care, as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, could use some legal advice every now and then. Too many of them have lost their businesses, or worse, the right to use their own names, as a result of deals they made early in their careers, with financial backers or licensing partners who may not have had their best interests in mind.

Fashion is not an area that has gotten a lot of respect in legal circles, historically, but von Furstenberg said that will change as a result of new academic degrees in fashion law that were announced at a press conference at Fordham Law School. Susan Scafidi, the founder and academic director of the Fashion Law Institute there, said the school will offer the first fashion-specialized master’s degrees, focusing on areas important to designers such as intellectual property and employment laws.

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The program, which begins this fall, will include courses taught by fashion industry professionals, including classes focused on financing, modeling, licensing, and sustainability. “You can’t apply law to fashion until you understand the business of fashion,” Scafidi said of the need to recognize a specific industry as an area of study.

And von Furstenberg said designers will find the news anything but boring.

“That is the biggest gift we could give to everybody,” she said. “How to protect your name.”

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