Last week, a slew of legal issues flew across the fashion industry, both between brands and from government entities looking to keep brands in check. Elsewhere, Lanvin tapped Future for a new collection, and Billionaire Boys Club showed up in Paris to capitalize on co-founder Pharrell Williams’ new gig. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Glossy Podcast for interviews with fashion industry leaders and Week in Review episodes, and the Glossy Beauty Podcast for interviews from the beauty industry. –Danny Parisi, sr. fashion reporter
A week of lawsuits, FTC complaints and government wrist slaps
It was a busy week for fashion brands’ legal teams. A number of lawsuits and regulatory disputes have caused headaches for companies like Skechers, Steve Madden and Amazon.
The most prominent of these lawsuits involves the designer Rhuigi Villaseñor. As the designer of the fashion brand Rhude, Villaseñor has been a public figure in the streetwear and fashion worlds. But last week, one of his business partners — George Robertson, who owns a 20% stake in Rhude — accused Villaseñor of pilfering money from the company’s coffers to fund a lavish lifestyle of private jets, expensive watches and exotic vacations.
Robertson alleges that Villaseñor has been diverting much of the $30 million in annual revenue the brand makes toward himself and stiffing investors like Robertson. Robertson filed a federal lawsuit against Villaseñor seeking $10 million and the removal of Villasenor from the brand.
Meanwhile, the sneaker brand Skechers sued Steve Madden on Wednesday over trademark infringement. The lawsuit alleges that a new collection of Steve Madden sneakers emblazoned with an S on the side misleadingly looks stamped with the Skechers logo. Neither company had commented publicly as of Friday afternoon.
Skechers has been famously litigious in the last 10 years. It’s sued Hermès, Nike, Adidas and Brooks Sports over trademark disputes. And, in fact, it sued Steve Madden once before, in 2016, also over trademark infringement. All of those cases were settled out of court.
But the biggest legal issue last week was probably for Amazon, which was the subject of a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission which alleged that the company illegally induced people into becoming Amazon Prime members and made it inordinately difficult for them to cancel that membership. Prime has been a key part of Amazon’s growth, including for its fashion vertical where Prime members drive higher sales.
Amazon, predictably, denied the allegations and said it would defend itself against the complaint.
Elsewhere, U.S. lawmakers issued a statement last week on Chinese fast fashion companies Shein and Temu avoiding paying tariffs on the more than 600 million shipments of products that they send into the U.S. each year, based on a loophole related to the value of the products sold. Basically, Shein’s prices are so cheap that it doesn’t have to pay tariffs on shipments. Reportedly, 30% of all tariff-exempt imports to the U.S. last year were from these two companies. This hasn’t yet escalated to actual legal action, but it certainly could in the near future.
The FTC coming down on a tech platform is likely to be a more common sight under new FTC Chair Lina Khan, who has signaled her intention to crack down on other big companies, as well. And while fashion brands are no stranger to suing each other — just look at Thom Browne v. Adidas, Nike v. StockX and Chanel v. The RealReal in recent years — the last week has certainly made clear the importance of maintaining a good legal team today.
Lanvin is the latest to tap a celebrity creative
On the Week in Review podcast last week, we dove into the new Louis Vuitton show, the first under Pharrell Williams’ leadership, and discussed the concern among designers that celebrity will trump design skills in the future of fashion.
On the podcast, I argued that that may be the case at mega brands like Louis Vuitton, but will likely be less common among smaller fashion brands. But after the recording, it was reported by WWD that Lanvin tapped the rapper Future as a guest creative director for a new collection of menswear and womenswear to be released later this year.
I still believe that classically trained designers will be the bread and butter for most brands going forward, but Lanvin’s decision definitely feels in line with Louis Vuitton’s strategy of hiring someone famous and with famously good taste to act as a curatorial voice.
Billionaire Boys Club opens an American-style diner in Paris
Speaking of Pharrell Williams, the brand he co-founded with Kenzo creative director Nigo way back in 2003 had a presence in Paris during fashion week when it opened an American-style diner pop-up on Friday.
Billionaire Boys Club is a streetwear brand that’s always had a relatively affordable price point compared to the brands its two co-founders now lead. In April, I talked to Joseph Au, the current creative director of Billionaire Boys Club, who told me he expected a halo effect from Pharrell’s new gig to give BBC a boost. It seems now that the brand is capitalizing on that halo effect with a Paris Fashion Week presence.