Protecting Your Brand Is the First Step to Being Successful

One of the first things a new fashion company needs to learn is how to protect its brand. It is the lifeblood of the business.

While fashion schools provide an exceptional education to students, courses on brand protection aren’t offered at all institutions. Prospective designers often enter the fashion industry unaware of the threats that can arise if they don’t safeguard their brands. “It’s not part of the curriculum, but it is part of the reality,” said Michelle Landver, a client executive at the insurance company Marsh & McLennan Agency.

Landver was speaking on a March 5 panel organized by Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Association, during the Los Angeles International Textile Show at the California Market Center. The topic was “Protecting Your Brand.” The other panelist speaking was Aaron Renfro, a shareholder and attorney with the law firm Call & Jensen.

Attendees learned how they can protect their intellectual property, establish a brand and avoid accusations of infringement from other companies.

The panel also emphasized the importance of performing adequate research that covers the basics of branding. Renfro warned attendees of a problem that often occurs after a designer has invested in his or her brand identity only to have a competitor raise accusations of infringement.

“If you don’t take the time to search and find out whether or not you can use it, there is a chance that someone is going to come along and say, ‘You can’t use that name,’” he explained. “Now, you’ve invested six months or a year into that brand name and your customers know you by it and then you have to go into the expense of changing that.”

In addition to introducing the basic concepts of trademarks, copyright, design patents and licensing that are the foundation of brand protection, Metchek also discussed the regulatory details regarding more recent trends of how celebrities and influencers use their recognition to promote products.

“The whole thing about social media—what is allowed and what isn’t—that is evolving. The government is stepping in on all of it,” Metchek said.

The seminar’s large attendee turnout showed that new designers are beginning to recognize there is more to starting a fashion business than simply producing beautiful clothing.

“Coming from a business background, I understand the importance of making sure that you have a clear business plan in place as well as the creative side of things,” said Julie Habelmann of Newport Beach, Calif., who wants to launch a resortwear line named Noble Sands.

Preparing designers with branding basics will only increase the chances that new ventures will succeed. “Helping people go into business with eyes wide open,” Landver said, “providing that education so that they can be prepared is going to help them be as successful as they possibly can be.”