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Red Carpets, Celebrities and Fashion

As award season closes, a personal highlight is the red carpet “who are you wearing?” segment.  We always delight when celebrities wear Canadian designed gowns, giving the Canadian designer the world’s spotlight.  But, as always, when pop culture and branding intersect, Froese Law can’t help but analyze the legal aspects.  

The Celebrity – Designer Relationship

Sometimes celebrities love a gown/look and they simply purchase it to wear it on the red carpet.  But most commonly, there’s a lot of “behind the scenes” dealings to get the designer to wear a particular fashion look.  Below are examples of the various ways in which a celebrity may wear a designer’s outfit:

a)Brand Ambassador 
In some instances, a celebrity and a brand have entered into a long term relationship, whereby the celebrity is contractually obligated to represent the brand.  This may include licensing the celebrity’s name and likeness to appear in commercials and advertisements.  It may contractually obligate the celebrity to guest appear at events on behalf of the designer/brand.  It may also contractually obligate the celebrity to wear the brand’s products at high profile public events, such as on red carpets for awards shows.  

b) Brokered Relationship through a Stylist/Publicist
For smaller brands that may not have direct access to the celebrity (through his/her management, agency or lawyer), smaller brands may have a relationship with a publicist or stylist.  The stylist/publicist may enter into an agreement with the fashion designer whereby the stylist/publicist creates the opportunity for the designer’s fashions to be shown to the celebrity.  The celebrity may or may not choose the designer’s line.

c) A One-Off Deal with the Celebrity 
In this situation, either the designer has provided free swag to the celebrity or has paid the celebrity to wear and/or promote the designer and his/her clothing at a specific event.  

Where Does the Law Come into Play?

a) Commercial Agreements

In each of the circumstances, the relationship entered in to is contractual, be it between a) the celebrity and the fashion designer or b) between the fashion designer and the stylist/publicist.  Of course, the prudent way to manage the relationship is through a written agreement.  The agreement should take into account performance obligations, compensation (both monetary and in kind), morality provisions, duration, term, termination, etc.  

b) Compliance with Influencer Marketing Laws and Advertising Laws

Interestingly, in both Canada and the US, there is concerted effort by both governments to clamp down on influencer marketing by specifically extending the reach of advertising laws to encompass influencer marketing.  Especially in the US, we have seen many instances whereby fines are issued against influencers who fail to abide by marketing legislation.  Common offences include lack of sufficient disclosure regarding the commercial relationship between the celebrity and the brand.