Last night, Kaveat hosted a panel discussion entitled “Kaveat’s Voices in Fashion: NYC” at the Cornell Tech Campus. The event brought together four accomplished professionals in the fashion industry: Sara Ziff, founder and executive director of the Model Alliance, Larissa Drakonja, founder of Neon Coat and seasoned model and actress, Igee Okafor, founder & Editor-In-Chief of BOND Official and male clothing influencer, and Anna Radke, Partner at the Brand Counsel, a law firm specializing in fashion and art. The panel was moderated by Dorothee Grant, CEO and Co-founder of Kaveat.
The discussion focused on the realities of working in the fashion industry and the challenges faced by those in the field, including late payments, inadequate compensation, and unsafe working conditions. The panelists shared their experiences and provided advice on how to advocate for oneself in the business world, including the importance of understanding contracts and the industry’s often-predatory nature. One audience member stated:
“I loved how everyone was so honest and really inspiring to hear after the struggles people have been through and how far they have come to where they are today. Well done to everyone!!”
The panelists also addressed the need for increased regulation in the fashion industry, with Sara Ziff discussing her inspiration for creating the Model Alliance stating she “experienced the pitfalls of what remains a largely unregulated industry” and wanted to build a platform to give herself “and other models a voice in their work.” Sara also shed light on the proposed Fashion Workers Act. This bill would provide basic protections to fashion workers, such as ensuring payment within 45 days, regulating talent managers, and casting financial protection over the talent. Essentially, it will bring the bare minimum of regulatory support to what is now a wild west of exploited talent.
Larissa Drakonja spoke about the unfair treatment of models and creatives and her experiences as an international model and actress. She commented on her experience feeling a lack of control in her career and “thinks it is very important that we bring it to light.” Inspired by this, she founded Neon Coat, an app that empowers models by connecting them with emerging and established businesses, which puts the control over their partnerships in the hands of the talent directly.
Sara and Larissa’s first-hand account of being a part of and actively advocating for a more equitable, fashion industry inspired many in the crowd, with one audience member claiming their “passion could be heard in their voices.”
Another of the key issues addressed was the treatment of independent contractors in the fashion industry, as the panelists shared their own experiences of being taken advantage of in this capacity. They emphasized the importance of understanding one’s contracts and knowing one’s rights, especially in an industry where workers are frequently misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees.
Anna Radke, a partner at the Brand Counsel, highlighted common misunderstandings and questions in the industry and shared resources and pro-bono work that would be more accessible to those just starting out. Her unique perspective and insight brought a spin on the conversation that many in the audience related to, and as a former Cornell Tech L.L.M. Alumna, she inspired students to explore career paths within the fashion and law intersection.
In addition to addressing the challenges faced in the fashion industry, the panelists also shared their experiences of success and offered advice on how to succeed in the business. Igee Okafor spoke about his journey as a premier influencer in the male clothing essentials. He walked us through a day in his life as a small business owner and influencer, and how to navigate the administrative pipeline while focusing on what it is he does best: creating. He admitted that “the day-to-day struggle, even as a business owner, is very difficult”, but despite this challenge he was inspired to create BOND Official to talk about the everyday people making a difference. His story brought a warmth and positivity to the conversation, reminding the audience that the fashion industry has a lot of great things to offer.
Kaveat’s Voices in Fashion: NYC panel provided insightful and thought-provoking discussion on the challenges and opportunities in the fashion industry. One Cornell Tech student and attendee stated “I think it was an important event. In the face of adversity, it is easy to resign yourself to the fact that everything is bleak and all efforts are futile. Events like this and the endeavors of the panelists remind us that there is still hope.” The panelists offered valuable advice and insights, and the audience participated in lively and engaged dialogue.
The event hosted a great conversation and emphasized the importance of advocating for oneself and speaking up about the issues faced in the fashion industry. Kaveat expresses gratitude for the support of Dean Greg Morrisett, who not only attended the event but actively participated in asking leading questions. Thank you to all the panelists, the audience, and the facilities for your help in making this event a success.
For more information on the Fashion Workers Act and how you can get involved, check out the information page here.
Some free legal resources mentioned by Anna:
Pro-bono work, reach out to firms to ask about it
Ask your affiliate university for any in-house counsel
Resources we found:
For “an inside look at the foundations of essential menswear, grooming, and lifestyle endeavors” check out the one and only https://veryigeeokafor.com/
If you are eligible and interested in joining the Neon Coat community, get more information here.