Podcasts

Apparel Expert Witness Experience & Discovery Advantages – Episode 51

By: Gabriele Goldaper & Adam Bloomberg

IMS Elite Expert Gabriele Goldaper discusses her experiences as an apparel expert witness and the strategic advantages of working with experts early in discovery. Listen, watch, and/or read the transcript below. (Part 1 of 3)


Hello and welcome to the IMS Insights Podcast. I’m your host, Adam Bloomberg.

Today, we’re speaking with Gabriele Goldaper about the apparel industry, early case strategy, and trial testimony.

Gabriele is a product authentication expert with more than 45 years of experience as a fashion industry expert and academic in the luxury and budget markets. She has consulted on branding, marketing, and licensing strategies for numerous companies and teaches apparel management at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

Adam Bloomberg:

Gabriele, thank you for joining us today. I’d like to begin with your background. You’re an expert in the fashion, apparel, and textile industry with more than 45 years of experience. Congratulations. Can you explain what an apparel or luxury product authentication expert does?

Gabriele Goldaper:

Well, thank you, Adam. And it’s nice to see you today. When you have as many years of experience as I have in the apparel industry, hands-on, meaning I owned my own apparel company. I now own my own consulting company. I did sell the apparel company. You get familiar, very familiar, with the ins and outs of every category of clothing, and that would include the designer market, which you refer to as the luxury market. And then you have, of course, the Walmarts of this world, which is the budget or mass market. And then you have Macy’s, that type of store, which is a more moderate market.

So my experience has been very extensive because when I owned my own company, I was very lucky because I did the expensive category, which is the designer category, in one division. I did the moderately priced category in a totally different named division. And then, I did the budget category in a third named division. Owning my own company was a wonderful experience, and as I said, I did sell it. And having worked for myself, it was hard to go to work for someone else. So I then opened a consulting company, and I now work with all three categories on a consulting basis.

Adam Bloomberg:

In the very beginning, how do you get interested in the fashion industry?

Gabriele Goldaper:

That’s a hard thing to answer because I think it’s in your blood. It’s like, I teach at the Fashion Institute. I’ve been teaching there on a part-time basis for 36 years. And those students, and they’re not just high school graduates, I’m in the graduate program. So these are people who’ve been in the industry. I often ask that question, and the answer is very similar. “It’s in my blood. I just love clothes; I love fashion. It’s just part of who I am.” And I’ve always known that, and that’s how my students answer. And it’s also how I answer, despite the fact that my graduate degree, I do have a master’s in economics. But that opened my world to retailing. And so I got started because I think I felt I really loved the industry, and I’ve got to get into it.

Adam Bloomberg:

Well, I’m guessing the fact that you’re teaching, you like teaching, and I’m guessing also that you had a lot of teachers along the way in many different forms and probably the form of mentors. Can you talk a little bit about your path and the mentors that helped you along the way to get you to where you are now?

Gabriele Goldaper:

There’s a lot that happens in the apparel industry for which there are no textbooks. And so you either learn it from the hard school of experience, or you are blessed with some mentors. And I had several wonderful mentors. The mentors that I had taught me the areas that I couldn’t have learned even by practicing in the industry. For example, I learned all the ins and outs about fabric, how the cotton is spun and how the fibers are actually made from chemicals, and how to do we spin the yarn and how do we make the actual knit product. That was a mentor who actually led me by the hand and showed me that in his own factory. And that eliminated a lot of having to learn it through experience.

I learned a lot from experts who worked in the area of inventory management and in the apparel industry, one of the quickest ways to lose money is if you have too much inventory. So my mentors enabled me to identify and work with the proper levels of inventory at retail or at wholesale so that, in fact, you wouldn’t have too many markdowns and/or finished items that were dated. Because in the fashion industry, everything gets dated very quickly. Now, when I have students who want to start their own business, and I happen to teach a class in entrepreneurship, I tend to want to mentor them for the same reason; to kind of cut down on the amount of time they have to invest in learning by doing. And if I mentor them, I can cut that cycle down by telling them how to do it or showing them how to do it. Mentoring is a wonderful thing now that I do it for my students; it’s very gratifying. So I’m hoping that the people who are mentors for me feel the same way. I think they do.

Adam Bloomberg:

I’m guessing from what I know about you speaking to you days leading up to this, I’m feeling pretty confident about that. So let’s talk a little bit about your expert witness work. You touched on a little bit, opening your own practice. How did you first get started in the expert work?

Gabriele Goldaper:

Well, a lot of life is being at the right place at the right time. We call that propinquity. FIDM, which is the college where I’d teach, Fashion Institute, had a phone call from an attorney. The attorney said, I need an expert who’s familiar with, and he explained what he was looking for. It was a case on licensing. And when I owned my own company, I licensed one of my brands, so FIDM called me and said, “Hey, I’ve got an attorney, would you be interested in talking to him to see if you can do what he needs to be done as an expert?” That’s how I got started. I worked on that case with that attorney. It went to trial. So I got all the experience in one big case. And ever since that time, my husband, who was a marketer, never in the apparel industry, he said to me, “You ought to open a practice of expert witness work. This was a great case, and you did very well, and you’ve overcome the initial hurdles.” And that’s what I did, and that’s how I got started.

Adam Bloomberg:

Right place at the right time. That’s a great start. So let’s say, and the fact that you went to trial in your very first case, that’s pretty amazing. So during a trial, what’s the benefit of involving you early in the case?

Gabriele Goldaper:

Oh, there are lots of benefits. Even if the case doesn’t go to trial, but let’s say it goes to deposition or even if it settles, the earlier that the attorney calls me, the more I can help. I can help him, as an example, with what information will he need, what documentation, the production of documents that would be helpful, not just to me but also to him or her. The earlier they call me, the easier it is to eliminate the opposition because I have lots of experience where both attorneys, the attorneys for either side, will call me, both of them call me. Once I’ve committed to an attorney, I don’t uncommit, you see. Also, the earlier that the attorney calls me, especially in federal cases where I have to write a report, it’s called the Federal Rule 26. And there’s a lot of commitments to that report. I mean, you have a guideline that’s required by the federal courts, and that document must be completely presented to the attorney when he designates me as his expert, you see?

Now, if a lawyer calls you a week before he needs to designate, as, by the way, has happened to me on many occasions, it’s very difficult to do that report with any length and any research because they all require research. And so it’s definitely to their advantage to give me the extra time. I mean, I wrote a report for Guess that was 60 pages long, but they gave me a whole month’s notice, you see? And so there’s a very distinct advantage. Now, it doesn’t always happen that they give you that timeframe.

Adam Bloomberg:

So strategically, does your early involvement help the trial attorney, the trial team, help to develop the story and maybe give a little more time for research if more is needed in discovery?

Gabriele Goldaper:

It certainly helps them during discovery, you see. And the way that the lawyers work, they deal with one thing at a time. In other words, when they’re designating, they deal with that expert report. And before that, if they have the time, I can tell them what discovery you should get so that it’ll help both of us. It will definitely help. Once you’ve been designated and you’ve written the report, then opposing counsel gets a copy of that, and then they decide to depose you. Now, after the deposition, it is extremely common that settlements are reached. In fact, I only go to court about 12 to 15% of my cases. The rest of them settle.

Now, if it doesn’t settle now, they start with the litigator, gets involved, and they plan how to go about at trial, and they involve me again with the storyline and what would go well with the jury and what information they want me to stress and so forth. But, you see, trial is limited to whatever I said in my deposition. So a part of that game of what are we going to do at trial has been established.

Adam Bloomberg:

Right, right. Okay. So let’s talk a little bit more about the deposition. Actually, let’s talk about the time you’re testifying. So it’s at the deposition during discovery, and now we’re at trial. So it’s trial testimony. The essence of what you are doing is you’re educating jurors and probably judges that know nothing about licensing Chanel handbags. You’re teaching them; you are the teacher, really. So what’s your strategy when you’re explaining things like the language that’s used in this industry, the ins, and the outs, all of those things that are so foreign to the average person.

Gabriele Goldaper:

Remember, because I’m a college professor and I teach in the graduate program, I’m accustomed to the whole teaching method of getting across to my students, and I can tell when they got it, okay. I use the same methodology when I’m talking to a jury. I try not to use the idiomatic language because they won’t know what I’m talking about. Fabric to them, they understand. Piece goods, which is my word for fabric, they wouldn’t know what that is. So I use everyday language, and I’m very good about facing the jury and explaining what everything is that is involved in this case. Now, the lawyer should be asking me questions, and the better the questions are, the better I can direct to the jury information. But I’ve been known to do well when there’s a jury trial because I’m so accustomed to teaching, and I love teaching, which is the only reason I still do it. And therefore, I get very excited even on the witness stand when I’m talking to the jury. Because I want them to really get the essence of what I’m saying.

Thank you to Gabriele Goldaper for speaking with us today, and a special thanks to our listeners.

At IMS, we’re trusted to deliver consulting services to the most influential global law firms early with pre-suit and investigation services, then in litigation during discovery, arbitration and trial. It’s been our privilege to serve our clients on more than 20,000 cases and over 2,000 trials. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast and join us next time on the IMS Insights Podcast.


View this content on The National Law Review: Talking To Expert Witness Early in Discovery (natlawreview.com)

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