Pamela Church, Chair of Baker McKenzie’s North American Intellectual Property Practice and sub-committee member of the firm’s Luxury & Fashion Industry Group, was session moderator at November’s Luxury Law Summit panel discussion “Sustainability is here to stay - How can technology help you achieve your goals?”
Sustainability in practice
New York-based and with 25 years of experience, Pam advises clients on all aspects of M&A, business reorganisation, licensing and franchises. The panel, consisting of Baker McKenzie partners Samuel Kramer, Teresa Michaud, and Jonathan Cocker, explored through the lens of sustainability how luxury players are bringing to the market products that appeal to the new mood of ethically-minded customer. Discussion covered what sustainability really means for luxury products industries, and addressed legal issues relating to risk, management and brand protection. We caught up with Pam in advance of the summit to get her thoughts on issues in the luxury industry right now.
Luxury Law Alliance: What current trends do you see that have a significance within the luxury law space generally?
Pamela Church: There is an increased focus by brands on sustainability, the environment, health and well-being in the supply chain and in the brand image. The new consumers, including millennials, represent a new demographic disruption in the industry - they are minimalist, impatient, and demanding of transparency.Brands are integrating the various channels of their business - brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, mobile e-commerce and social media outreach - into one cohesive message. Multichannel retail does more than just improve the customer experience and make it more seamless; data collection from engagement permits the brand to know more about its customers and their preferences and anticipate their preferences.Technology innovations such as in AI, VR/AR, and blockchain present opportunities and challenges for transforming operations and outreach to customers.
LLA: What challenging legal issues are you currently dealing with in the luxury law industry?
PC: We have seen a rise in the use of class action litigation to address consumer protection regulation in the industry. There is increasing regulatory focus on compliance with disclosure requirements, particularly in the advertisement of product properties as "green, healthy or organic”. We also see increased focus on appropriate disclosures in the use of influencers (social media personalities, athletes, artists, bloggers) in promotion of luxury products. Compliance with data protection regulation is a key issue of focus for all luxury brands as their businesses leverage big data. Compliance with federal and state laws on contests and sweepstakes, gift card, loyalty card and state escheat laws continues to be an area of concern.
LLA: Are there particular opportunities within the luxury law sector right now?
PC: Brands are focusing now on the structuring of their supply chains in light of changes underway in trade and tax law. Restructuring operations creates opportunities for more efficient tax planning. Changes in the industry are also creating interesting mergers and acquisitions opportunities, including investments in technology assets.
LLA: How did you end up in your role, and how would you define ‘luxury’?
PC: I love working for luxury and fashion clients and have done so for my entire career! And Coco Chanel says it best: “Luxury is a necessity that begins where necessity ends.”