By Stefania Baldazzi and Elena Varese

Coordinator of the Fashion Law Specialization Course at the University of Milan

1. Barbara, you are the coordinator of the postgraduate fashion law course at the Insubria University of Como and at the Statale University of Milan.  No similar course has ever been offered by an Italian academic institution before.  Can you tell us where the idea to set up such a course came from?

My source of inspiration has been Susan Scafidi, the Director of the Fashion Law Institute in New York, with her pioneering courses in the various fashion law fields developed at the law school of Fordham University.  I met Susan some years ago, while I was giving a lecture at Fordham law school, and from the very first time we spoke we envisaged a possible cooperation between New York and Milan and Como.  Milan is one of the world’s fashion capitals and Como, where I hold my chair in comparative law, is the city of silk; so we thought these were the right places to begin an initiative in the fashion law sector.  Of course what Susan was doing in the States was not replicable in Italy, due to the different structure of the Italian law schools compared to the American ones.

The idea that came to my mind was then to imagine a postgraduate course, that graduate students as well as already practicing lawyers could attend.  With initial financial support from the Chamber of Commerce and the Bar Association of Como and – of course – with the help of various incredibly generous colleagues, we inaugurated last year the first postgraduate course in Fashion Law, which was then replicated, with minor changes, at the Statale university of Milan.


2. The course has seen great success.  The majority of participants are young female lawyers, does this have something to do with the fact that the legal profession is changing, or is it that fashion mainly attracts women?

Well…..Good question!  I think both is true.  As a law professor I have witnessed the radical change that has happened in all fields of the law towards a wider presence of women.  When I graduated 25 years ago at the Statale University of Milan, there was not a single woman professor at the law school and students were predominantly men.  In this quarter of a century, everything changed. Many women now hold a chair at the law school and students are equally distributed between the sexes, if not predominantly women.  On the other side it is also true that fashion mainly attracts women, especially in this case.

3. You are also an expert on sustainable fashion.  Could you tell us what the main challenges are?  Is there any provision for the future of green fashion?

Sustainability is nowadays a core value of all European policies.  Since the 5th and even more since the 6th Action Program for the Environment, the motto of the EU Commission has been “Let the market work for the environment”, promoting a new industrial revolution.  This means, among other things, that industries must be incentivized to promote “green” economy initiatives, while consumers must be helped to make “sustainable” choices.  In this scenario it is no wonder that the fashion industry has had to play an important role.  The Sustainability Manifesto of Camera della Moda Nazionale Italiana and Sistema Moda Italia is a milestone in this field, because it gives the framework for the whole fashion business.  Though we also have to think about the various other initiatives that are taking place at different levels, like the Sustainable Fabrics and Accessories Catalogue, launched by the Sustainability-lab of Blumine s.r.l., or to the Detox Campaign launched by a famous ONG to which various Italian designers have adhered.

4. What are the benefits that companies might obtain by adopting an environmentally sustainable approach?

There are various benefits that companies might see as a result of adopting an environmentally sustainable approach.  I would say that the first benefit is reputational, in the broadest sense of the term.  It concerns the reputation that the company might acquire on the market towards new customers, but also the reputation that may attract the best and engaged staff.  Furthermore, taking an environmentally sustainable approach generally implies a path of self-consciousness of the environmental costs generated by the company.  As a matter of fact, an environmentally sustainable approach might lead to the reformulation of recycling, energy conservation, energy-efficient office equipment, and water-saving policies, that will allow the company to save money by cutting bills.