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The place of the law in the Nigerian Fashion Industry with Kike Ojewale.

■ who is the “velveteenlawyer”? Tell us about yourself

My name is Kike Ojewale. I am a corporate and commercial lawyer and I specialize primarily in intellectual property law. I graduated from the University of Manchester in 2009; completed my masters in Intellectual Property Law in 2010. I moved back to Nigeria in 2011 and I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2012.
I am married with two children.

■ What lead to your vast interest in fashion?

I have always had a deep interest in fashion; from reading magazines and watching Fashion TV as a teenager. My friend and I started a fashion blog in 2006 and this further exposed us to the world of fashion. We had readers from around the world and met some of the greatest minds in fashion, both in Nigeria and overseas. Running the blog also led me to the realization that I wanted to work in fashion. I started styling for some friends in the business and slowly worked my way up to celebrities and editorials. I also worked on a lot of fashion shows, including Arise Fashion Week, Lagos Fashion & Design Week and Music Meets Runway. I later decided to understand the business of fashion which is what led to my interest in law in the fashion industry.

■ The legal issues faced by designers in relations to intellectual property law is really different from other creative works, how do you think the law can cater for designers in the fashion industry?

The fashion industry is a bit more complicated than other creative industries, especially when it comes to intellectual property, because fashion trends change and evolve every few months. The different forms of Intellectual Property offer some protection to this complex industry; however, this protection is not adequate. For example, copyright law protects any artistic expression however this is limited to the expression and not the functionality of the design -which in fashion is crucial.

Furthermore, copyright limits its protection to works that are not meant to be re-produced, which in a sense, defeats the purpose of any fashion design. Design law aims to fill in the gaps where copyright falls short. However, the requirements which need to be fulfilled for any design to attract this form of protection are a slightly unrealistic. A design needs to be novel and it must not have been released to the public to attract design protection. A designer could be taking a risk as he or she could be unsure of how well such a design will be received by the public and so it will be difficult determining if the design would be worth protecting or not. Design registrations are also difficult to obtain -the process is lengthy and expensive.

Nigerian intellectual property laws are in dire need of reform. For example, copyright laws could be reformed to allow for full protection without the limitation of production. Furthermore, structures should be established to ensure a less tedious registration process; for example, most applications at the Registry are still completed manually as opposed to electronically.

■ Several individuals in the fashion business do not see the importance of the law, what advise do you have for them?

We enter into contracts daily, be it your simple buying and selling or slightly more complex transactions such as merchandising and licensing. Legal protection is essential in every aspect of your business to ensure that your interests are protected in all business dealings. For example, if you are a hand bag designer and you are looking for an investor to assist in manufacturing and distribution, you can license your designs to a third party for a period and for a fee. A designer would need legal advice especially on the terms of the licensing contracts such as the term of the contract, the fee, the territory and so on.

■ On a scale of 1-10, how important is the ‘legal aspect’ in a fashion business?

11!

■ What is the place of the law in the Nigerian fashion industry?

Currently, “law in fashion” is not a very popular concept. I am hoping to change this narrative in the industry in Nigeria. As the industry grows, we need to ensure that more structures are put in place to protect all the stakeholders in the fashion industry.

■ What value does the law have to offer to the fashion industry?

Law in the fashion industry is essential. Intellectual property, protects creativity and innovation which is the crux of the fashion industry. This protection is invaluable and is also a source of income for any fashion designer. Developing an IP strategy very early on in the business will be of great benefit to the designer. There are various opportunities for a fashion designer -such as licensing, merchandising, franchising, all of which are governed by agreements which must be drafted and reviewed by a legal practitioner to ensure that all interests are fully protected.
Furthermore, as with any growing industry, fashion is often plagued with imitators, theft, fraud. As such, legal protection is essential to ensure that stakeholders are protected as much as possible.

■ What’s your favorite fashion piece? (what fashion piece is primary for you every day)

I love shoes. I have to have at least 3 pairs in my car -a pair of flats for running around, a pair of heels (in case I get called into a meeting) and a pair of sneakers (in case I want to switch it up).

■ Apart from the law, what other area of interest do you have?

Fashion; I enjoy reading, FOOD and travelling.

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