Friday, November 13, 2015
Fashion Law co-presidents introduce the panel

At the first Fashion Law Society panel: (from left) founders and co-presidents Tamie Dolny and Amna Rehman introduced speakers Ashlee Froese, alumni Shawn Hewson and Ruth Promislow, and Mark Katz.

By Rida Fatima, University of Toronto student

More than 60 University of Toronto Faculty of Law students gathered in Emmanuel College Nov. 9th, to attend the “Fashion Law Panel,” hosted by the newly formed Fashion Law Society, for a chance to network with practitioners in the field and gain insights to the unique intersections of this practice area.

Co-founders and presidents of the FLS, 1Ls Tamie Dolny and Amna Rehman introduced the panelists—Mark Katz, Ashlee Froese, and alumni and spouses Ruth Promislow and Shawn Hewson—and asked a range of questions, from describing a typical work day to what advice the panelists would give to students entering the legal industry.

As co-founders of Bustle Clothing, Promislow and Hewson shared their experiences in launching a business alongside their legal careers. While Hewson eventually went on to take over management of Bustle Clothing full time (exiting the legal profession), Promislow still practices and is a partner at Bennett Jones LLP.

Hewson shared the advantages of his U of T legal education, particularly in navigating the business world. He pointed out how artists and designers are often mistreated, even when the other party is contractually tied to them. He and Promislow were able to navigate such conundrums because their legal training allowed them to advocate for themselves in a court of law. They both reminisced about how they would press T-shirts at midnight, after working late hours as first year associates on Bay Street, such was their determination for their business to succeed, driven by a clear passion for the fashion industry.

panel speakers Ashlee Froese, Shawn Hewson, Ruth Promislow and Mark Katz.

Panel speakers Ashlee Froese, Shawn Hewson, Ruth Promislow and Mark Katz: "Be open to new opportunities."

Ashlee Froese, a partner at Fogler Rubinoff LLP, emphasized the importance of mastering how to be an attorney before selecting a particular industry.  “Become as good a lawyer as you can," said Froese, for the unparalleled experience of understanding the legal world, no matter what industry you decide to practice within. She shared the highs and lows of working with both struggling and high-end designers, from the clients’ budget limitations to the satisfaction of helping clients gain name recognition.

Fashion law is “still an emerging frontier,” said Froese, and noted many up-and-coming designers relocate to other countries for government funding and stronger media exposure. This outflow of business proves a challenge to lawyers in Canada. Her final advice was to network: “You need to know publicists, absolutely everyone possible to satisfy your client.”

Mark Katz, a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, said smartphones have changed traditional corporate practice. Instant communications allow lawyers today to service clients without ever having met them, making the industry more productive and subsequently more demanding. He also discussed the growing challenges of paid advertising for fashion goods on blogs, and the legal implications of selling products on social media.

“Success is what you make of it,” said Katz in his advice to students. “Figure out for yourself what makes you happy and pursue it. You don’t have to follow a traditional career path that others make for you.”

Fashion Law Society executive team: (From left) Tamie Dolny (Founding Co-president), Patrick Pang (Event Planning Exec), SJ Choi (Event Planning Exec), Amna Rehman (Founding Co-president), Elizabeth Litwack (Social Media Exec), and Leslie-Anne Walker (Social Media Exec).

The panelists’ typical work days differed dramatically. Katz described his day as that of a traditional “desk job” with occasional travelling, while Froese and Promislow said theirs consisted of handling multiple cases in one day. Hewson’s schedule varied depending on the date and time, ranging from overlooking production to drafting marketing strategies. When asked whether they would choose the same career path given the choice, the panelists responded with a unanimous “Yes.”

Their advice ultimately centred on being open to learning opportunities. Promislow advised new lawyers to remain flexible. “You will discover that your skillset can be applied to so many different areas,” she said.

Joked Hewson, her husband: “Just remember, don’t go into business with your wife!”


For more information and to learn of future events, view the FLS here, check out it out on Twitter @UofTFashionLaw, or like the Facebook page.