The article 'History and Evolution of Fashion Law' by Snehil Sharma shall discuss the nuances of fashion law in India to understand its origin, background and scope along with some relevant case laws.

The article 'History and Evolution of Fashion Law' by Snehil Sharma shall discuss the nuances of fashion law in India to understand its origin, background and scope along with some relevant case laws.

Although it is well known that the fashion industry, also known as the garment industry, generates trillions of dollars yearly and employs millions of people worldwide, the hidden impact of fashion on daily life is sometimes overlooked. Fashion has evolved into a universally recognised phenomenon due to the wide range of categories that lie under it. Yet, compared to the available legal protection, the industry continues to be very weak.


Fashion in the twenty-first century has expanded beyond clothing to include a wide range of distinct items, including accessories, customized clothing, smart accessories, and newly developed textiles. One of the areas of law that is expanding the fastest is fashion or apparel law.

It is a combination of numerous laws, including those relating to contracts, intellectual property, consumer protection, employment legislation, and laws governing competition and advertising. The knowledge of fashion law starts right at the fabric-production stage and doesn't end when the product is sold. The fashion law industry serves a variety of agents and parties as clients, including design companies, wholesalers, tailors, shops, modelling agencies, and photographers.

Background of Fashion Law

Fashion regulation is a subset of regulation that deals with various licenced innovation freedoms, such as exchange plans, brand names, copyright, and patent. Interestingly, Susan Scafidi, a teacher of law in the United States, offered a course on fashion and style regulation in 2008. Since then, this topic has been seen as a distinct area in the legal community. Although being a highly thought-out speciality, fashion regulation is a rapidly expanding field with the advancement of emerging technologies.

Throughout the seventeenth century, fashion was an essential aspect of French culture. Textures with more economical iterations have also been included in patterns. The most critical consideration in the fashion industry is the copying of designs which has persisted since ancient times. The first methods to safeguard fashion designs were the English and French Copyright systems. Fashion Law is currently developing and growing alongside the fashion industry.

Fashion law in Foreign Countries

Only the European Union and the United States of America have regulations protecting their fashion industries. Three pieces of copyright legislation have been presented to Congress in the last ten years: the Design Piracy Prohibition Act (introduced in 2009), the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act (introduced in 2010), and the Innovative Design Protection Act (introduced in 2012). Each proposed amendment to the US Copyright Act would provide fashion designs with a unique level of protection.

In particular, the "separability" requirement was intended to be removed by the Act so that designers would no longer be required to get protection from various creative elements of their clothing designs. Regrettably, none of the recommendations was adopted since Congress did not support them sufficiently. In 1998, the European Council approved the Legal Protection of Design (a European Directive).

It established requirements for eligibility for protection. The owner is granted exclusive possession for 25 years. This law safeguards both registered and unregistered designs. The separability criteria are used by the US to protect, but the EU takes a collective approach. One of the main distinctions between EU and American fashion law is this.

Fashion law and Its Scope

The fashion business is expanding and will continue to do so until people quit wearing clothes, which will never happen. The size of the entire industry, consists of design firms, distributors, tailors, industry workers, models, modelling agencies, merchants, photographers, hand artisans, etc.

Fashion Lawyers should be extremely passionate, knowledgeable, and interested in everything related to this field. Legal understanding of this dazzling field is what makes the shine in the eyes of his clients on the professional front. Some brands and designers have their in-house staff of fashion lawyers and some contract with legal firms which deal with the same.

A smart fashion lawyer must be able to not only speak the fashion talk but also walk the walk when it comes to potentially difficult legal matters like contract law and intellectual property law. Few colleges around the world offer programmes in fashion law to interested students.

Lawyers in the fashion industry handle tasks such as contract drafting, negotiation, and licencing business governance, labour legislation, information technology laws, and import-export rules. The professionals involved in this business are held to a duty of care by fashion law and fashion lawyers. Contracts created between the various roles give the task a legal and more serious perspective.

Case Laws

Following are some of the important Indian case laws relating to fashion law:

1. Ritika Apparels v. Biba, CS(OS) No.182/2011

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Defendant seeking a court order prohibiting Defendant from reproducing Plaintiff's prints and apparel items by duplication, printing, distribution, selling, or other means. Plaintiff claimed to be the primary owner of the copyright in the artistic works associated with these articles of apparel and further claimed that its former representatives had violated its rights to the intellectual invention. According to the Delhi High Court, because the Plaintiff's copyright in the cited works had vanished, Section 15(2) of the Copyright Act, 1957 prohibited the lawsuit.

Ritu Kumar was denied design assurance and authorization of its copyright in the first drawing of the plan because it repeatedly copied the aforementioned plans on its clothing. By holding that Defendant was making clothing according to a modern cycle and was not only lifting and joining a print taken from the copyrighted work of Plaintiff, the court also inferred that there was no copyright encroachment rather than comparing Plaintiff's prints/plans and Defendant's printed proliferation.

2. Microfibres v. Girdhari & Co., 2006 (32) PTC 157 Del

In Microfibres v. Girdhar & Co., there were two companies named "A" and "B" that were both involved in the production and sale of upholstery textiles with distinctive and artistic patterns.

"A" claimed that "B" had imitated and created prints on materials that are similar to those already used by the former. The latter response, however, by stating that the artistic creation of "A" should be protected under the Designs Act rather than the Copyrights Act, subject to registration.

The Delhi High Court argued that because the drawings of "A" were intended for commercial exploitation, they should be protected as designs rather than by copyright. The court rejected company "A's" argument by stating that:

  • The aim and object of work are significant factors to consider when determining the nature of the protection requested.
  • Drawings made specifically for use on cloth must be categorised as designs because they lack a justification for their existence.

The Division Bench of our Indian Supreme Court ruled on an appeal that was made:

An artist's aim when creating a work of art is indescribable and hence imperceptible and it shouldn't be taken into account. The copyright principle of originality must be respected and given significant weight. The goal of design regulation would undoubtedly be defeated in this specific instance if the court permits the moulding of the resultant image. To prevent conflict and repugnance between the two statutes, the doctrine of harmonious construction was used in this judgement.


India's fashion industry is expanding like never before. Things are changing because of social media and the influencer era. In comparison to India, the United States of America and France have far more evolved regulations supporting the fashion industry. Designers and all other professionals involved in this industry need to be aware of both their obligations and rights. All of these experts need to be aware of the regulations that are in place to safeguard their creations and do them justice by doing them appropriate credit. Although some of the problems experienced by those who operate in this profession are not addressed by the nation's laws, more legal protection for their employees should be developed.


[1] An Insight on Fashion Laws in India, Available Here

[2] Demystifying Fashion Law in India, Available Here

[3] Fashion and IPR Laws in India, Available Here

[4] Fashion Copying and Design of the Law, Available Here

[5] Need for Fashion Law in India, Available Here

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Updated On 29 March 2023 8:13 AM GMT
Snehil Sharma

Snehil Sharma

Snehil Sharma is an advocate with an LL.M specializing in Business Law. He is a legal research aficionado and is actively indulged in legal content creation. His forte is researching on contemporary legal issues.

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