Fyre Festival, the ill-fated music experience that came crashing down late last month, continues to make headlines as the class-action lawsuits from attendees claiming fraud consistently roll in. Models — particularly skinny, skinny ones — are the subject of recently enacted legislation in France, making for an interesting international trend of countries adopting laws to cut down on fashion’s employment of unhealthy models. And much like footwear has been subject to increased litigation, undergarments take center stage with a number of new lawsuits.
Footwear, Undergarments and Patent Litigation, Oh My!
Many footwear designs have come under legal fire in a significant manner over the past decade, as the market’s giants look to patent — and in some cases trade dress — protection to ward off competitors in the increasingly competitive sector. More and more, intimates have been frequently at the center of similar legal battles.
The latest lawsuit to hit the docket: The patent infringement suit that Hanes filed against lingerie subscription service AdoreMe in a federal court in North Carolina. According to Hanes’ complaint, AdoreMe infringed its patent, which extends to a “bra cup for increasing visual appearance of breast size, and brassiere incorporating the same.” This case comes just a month after Hanes filed a bra-related patent suit against rival brand Jacques Moret.
Unsurprisingly, the market’s big brands have not always been on the initiating end of these suits. Both Victoria’s Secret and H&M have been hit with multimillion dollar patent lawsuits in recent years.
The rise in lawsuits should come as little surprise, as the intimates industry has been undergoing widespread change. Just as the activewear market has seen ever-increasing competition of new participants (read: industry “disruptors” and start-ups) vying for market share, traditional intimates companies, such as Victoria’s Secret, are being challenged by new market entrants with specialized products and services aimed largely at Millennial shoppers.
Skinny Model Laws: A Legislative Trend
After introducing the first bill, an eight-year-long line of proposed legislation, members of the French National Assembly have enacted a law requiring that retouched fashion photos be labeled as such, and that models undergo a medical examination every two years and possess medical documentation certifying that they are in good enough health to work. The Photoshop labeling requirement, which will go into effect on Oct. 1, will compel brands and publications to include “photographie retouchée” with any digitally modified advertising images if the retouching “has changed the physical appearance of models.” If flouted, the requirement comes with a $41,000 fine.
As for the health prong of the legislation, particular attention will be paid to models’ body mass index, or BMI, which is calculated by dividing their weight by the square of their height. Violations of this aspect of the law carries a fine of up to $81,000 and a potential jail stint of six months.
The law, which will actually apply to all models working in the European Union and the European Economic Area, is part of a larger legislative trend. It comes on the heels of a very similar, dual-faceted piece of legislation adopted in Israel in 2012. Similarly, Spain bars models below a certain BMI from walking in the biannual Madrid Fashion Week shows. Still yet, Italy requires that models possess health certificates, and Brazil has been considering demands to ban underage, underweight models from its catwalks for several years.
Although not codified, organizers for São Paulo Fashion Week began banning models under age 16 and asking for health certificates in 2007.
Keeping Up With the Fyre Festival Class Actions
Since the start and swift demise of Fyre Festival, the over-the-top luxury music festival that was supposed to rival California-based Coachella has been hit repeatedly with excruciatingly bad press and no shortage of multimillion dollar class-action lawsuits.
The first weekend of the festival saw thousands of Millennials descending upon a remote Bahamian island in the Exumas on Fyre Cay, only to find what has been called a “hoax” and a “scam” of a music fest. Just days later, festivalgoer Daniel Jung filed the first lawsuit against Fyre and its organizers, rapper Ja Rule and entrepreneur Billy McFarland. His suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on April 30 and seeks $100 million in damages, alleges the “festival’s lack of adequate food, water, shelter and medical care created a dangerous and panicked situation among attendees — suddenly finding themselves stranded on a remote island without basic provisions — that was closer to ‘The Hunger Games’ or ‘Lord of the Flies’ than Coachella.”
Jung’s suit has been followed by at least five other similar ones by festivalgoers alleging fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract and violation of various states’ consumer protection laws; all are seeking at least $5 million in damages (the legal standard for class-action damages). An additional suit has been filed by National Event Services Inc., the security company contracted to cover the dual-weekend event.
To date, none of the individual influencers, such as Emily Ratajkowski, Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Elsa Hosk, who were paid handsomely to promote the festival on their own social media accounts using event-specific promotional materials produced by Fyre, have been named as defendants in any of the lawsuits. Many have been name-checked and given specific attention in the plaintiffs’ complaints, claiming that their promotions of the event lacked appropriate Federal Trade Commission disclosures.
Julie Zerbo is the founder of The Fashion Law.