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Douglas Hand has a storied career in fashion law. He’s literally written a book on the topic and one on personal style. We’ve invited him to pen a regular column about the legal and fashion dilemmas facing menswear retailers.

Why did you choose law and where does your interest in fashion come from?

The law just fits my temperament and intellect. I was pretty certain at a relatively early age that I’d end up practicing. My interest in fashion is completely organic. It’s hard for me to separate caring about fashion from caring about myself.

What are some of the more interesting aspects of your work at present?

Working with creative professionals is always invigorating and fashion designers are most certainly that. My firm HBA LLP covers all aspects of the fashion industry, but the design and marketing elements present some of the more engaging legal questions. Thankfully I have some great partners.

What exactly is fashion law?

Fashion law encompasses not only intellectual property law and commercial/contract law but also employment, corporate, real estate, import/export, and litigation. It’s a massive industry: so many areas of law come to bear in quite specific ways.

You’ve said that when the job market is bad, men dress better. Can you elaborate?

Well, “better” is a bit of a value judgment, so let me say that men dress more formally as the job market tightens. It’s almost a lockstep relationship. Guys understand that dressing more formally in the workplace (or when interviewing in the potential workplace) communicates a respect for the job. Sort of treating the occupation with a little reverence.

Tell us about your book and podcast, The Laws of Style.

When the American Bar Association approached me as a publisher and asked if I’d consider writing a book, it struck me that service professionals (not just lawyers) lack a comprehensive guidebook for looking elegant and capable. So many men have an ivory tower perspective: if you aren’t getting your suits made bespoke on Jermyn Street, you’re sort of ignorant and slovenly, not in the club for those “in the know.” I wanted to speak to guys with a voice in the know, but outside the club.

Is there a solution for all the overproducing in the fashion industry?
It’s a complicated, macro question for sure. Overproduction has been systemic, based on the cycle of seasonal fashion, which seeks to convince us that what we bought three months ago is now obsolete—not because it fails as a garment but because it’s out of fashion. The economics of the retailer-to-brand relationship places risk on not having enough of a “hot” item. The industry has attempted some group discussions around self-regulation but the problem with collective action is the potential for antitrust violations. But if the government is going to intervene where it believes brands are engaging in collective action to the detriment of consumers, it also needs to step in with regulation to address some of the environmental consequences, which are detrimental to us all.

Can you comment on fashion collaborations between luxury and mainstream brands?

Collaborations have driven the fashion conversation for a while now. They’re a great way for brands to gain access to a different customer base and/or a new product market. Today’s successful collabs are often high/low pairings of luxury with mass market. I think the collabs done by retailers like Target, PacSun, and H&M are good examples.

Your thoughts on influencer marketing?

It can be a great way to connect with customers, particularly via the use of micro-influencers with real and engaged followers. I think using mega influencers is no different than using traditional brand ambassadors, a practice that’s been around for ages. The important thing for brands and retailers to recognize is that this is regulated by the FTC in most states, so disclosing paid partnerships is an absolute must.

Mergers, acquisitions and financial problems have left us with fewer department stores. Is this good or bad?

I think, within reason, choice is always good for consumers, as is a healthy, competitive market of retailers for consumers to select from. Most big stores have traditionally supported emerging brands and given them a broader platform than most DTC or brand-owned retail concepts can. The loss of Barneys, for example, set back a lot of small independent brands that, after the bankruptcy, had no real national representation.

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