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Thursday, February 11, 2010

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Barbara Kolsun, Fashion Lawyer, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Stuart Weitzman, LLC, and Author of "Fashion Law"

Barbara Kolsun is one of the most prominent fashion lawyers in Manhattan. She has created in-house legal departments at several luxury retail brands and she has been integral in the crusade against anti-counterfeiting of luxury goods- a problem that threatens the luxury retail businesses that Manhattan’s economy benefits from. She has co-conceived and co-edited the first fashion law text book which we have highly recommended (click here to read our review) and has lectured the universities and law schools in Manhattan. 

Currently, Ms. Kolsun is Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Stuart Weitzman, LLC, a luxury shoe design, manufacturing and retail company based in New York.  She started the company’s first in-house legal department and manages all legal matters for the company.  Prior to Stuart Weitzman, Ms. Kolsun served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Seven for All Mankind, LLC, a leading luxury denim and apparel company, and of Kate Spade, LLC, the luxury handbag and lifestyle design house. She was Assistant General Counsel of WestPoint Stevens, Inc., the home textile company, and of Calvin Klein Jeanswear Co.  
Prior to her time working as in-house counsel for luxury retail brands, Ms Kolsun practiced as a litigation and intellectual property attorney at several law firms in Manhattan, including Gursky & Associates, P.C., Amster, Rothstein & Ebenstein, LLP, Dechert, Price & Rhodes (Now Dechert, LLP), and Burrows & Poster. Ms. Kolsun was pro se law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit (1982-1984), after she received her J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 1982. She has been admitted to the New York and Connecticut Bar and has been admitted to practice in the United States Supreme Court, the Second and Eleventh Circuits; and the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. 

Ms. Kolsun rounds out a practice-based legal career with teaching, serving as Adjunct Associate Professor at Fordham Law School from 1986-1988, as well as participating in numerous visiting lectureships at law schools around the country, including the University of Chicago Law School, Brooklyn Law School, New York Law School, the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and the USC Gould School of Law. In 2007, she was a speaker at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s 6th Annual INTA/USPTO Industry Training Seminar on the Fashion and Retail Industries in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Kolsun conceived, co-edited, and co-authored the first textbook on Fashion Law entitled Fashion Law - A Guide for Designers, Fashion Executives, and Attorneys (Fairchild, 2009). She also authored a chapter in Trademark Counterfeiting, edited by Abbott & Sporn, entitled "Building A Comprehensive Anticounterfeiting Program" (1999, 2004); revised in 2008 as Brokate & Atlas, Trademark Counterfeiting in the United States, published by IACC, and she was published in the Cardozo and Entertainment Law Journal at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, for her work entitled "Indirect Infringement and Counterfeiting:  Remedies Available Against Those Who Knowingly Rent to Counterfeiters" (V. 16-2 & 16-3, 1998). 

Ms. Kolsun has spoken and published widely on the topic of counterfeiting and 
trademark infringement not only in the United States, but internationally as well. Her notable international engagements include, speaking at the International Forum on Intellectual Property Protection of Design held by the Universidad de Los Andes, School of Architecture and Design, Bogota, Colombia (November 2009), lecturing to the State Intellectual Property Office of China at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law (November 2008, 2009), speaking at the Fashion Marketing 2007 Conference, Sao Paolo, Brazil (April 2007), and speaking at Suzy Menkes’ International Herald Tribune Conference on Luxury Goods in Istanbul, Turkey (December 2006). In addition, in 2003 and 2004, as part of STAR Vietnam, a USAID program, Ms. Kolsun conducted workshops in various cities in Vietnam, on drafting Vietnam’s civil and criminal procedure code as it relates to trademark law, anticounterfeiting and enforcement. She also taught seminars for Vietnam Customs, the Minister of Trade and Peoples Committee of Hanoi on trademark enforcement. 

Ms. Kolsun has devoted significant time and effort to the cause of enforcement of intellectual property, serving as Chairman of the Board of the International Anticounterfeiting Coalition (IACC). She has been widely recognized for her pioneering work and passionate stance on the importance of anticounterfeiting efforts. As a result, her work has been the subject of numerous publications, including, “Handbag Maker Takes Aim at Knockoffs” (NY Times, October 29, 2002), “A Pit Bull Who Lunges at Brand Counterfeiters” (NY Times, November 13, 2002), the CBS Morning Show (October 12, 2003), “The Purse Party” (Time Magazine, August 2, 2004); “Kate Spade’s Top Lawyer Takes on Counterfeits” (Harpers Bazaar, January 2005), “Barbara Kolsun: Counterfeit Cop” (Women’s Wear Daily, May, 2006), “Fighting Fakes” (Journal News, June, 2006), and “Other Voices – Women Leaders Boost Profit” (Barron’s, September, 2006).

Ms. Kolsun received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, where she has been a Trustee (1999-2007), President of Alumni Association (1999-2003), and where she was honored in June 2007 with an Alumni Citation for Service. She has noted that her experience as a professional singer and actress (1970-1979) has served as additional motivation in her fierce drive to protect artists’ and designers’ intellectual property rights. She is a member of the Advisory Board of First Step, a job training program of the Coalition for the Homeless and was honored in November 2000 and March 2002 with the Volunteer Recognition Award by the Women Mean Business Luncheon.  We are so pleased to present her as our latest Mover and Shaker!

Peachy Deegan interviewed Barbara Kolsun for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan:What did you first fall in love with, fashion or law, and how?
Barbara Kolsun: Neither. I accidentally fell into the world I find myself in. I was a professional actress and singer for 8 years, which certainly led me to fall in love with creative people.

What gave you the idea for the fashion law book?
So many young designers call me asking how do I get started? How do I protect my designs? Can I file a trademark application by myself? Can I use this picture of Andy Warhol in my print ad? All of these questions and more are answered in the book.

We absolutely loved the fashion law book; what kinds of responses have you received from others?
It sold out on its first printing and I seem to get emails everyday, so I guess it’s a success.

What did you enjoy doing the most in relation to the fashion law book?
Defining the subject matter from amongst the many issues I deal with at work here at Stuart Weitzman everyday.

How many pairs of shoes do you own?
About 50.

How many of those are by Stuart Weitzman?
Most all.

What is the biggest problem with counterfeiters?
They don’t pay taxes, they use children to manufacture product, they steal the hard work of designers, and they don’t play by the rules.

How do you think the luxury market is weathering the current economic climate?
Pretty well. High quality, beautifully made, exquisitely designed products will always sell. Now more than ever people will buy one gorgeous pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes rather than 4 cheap pairs – that’s how the French shop.

Will you be writing another book and if so on what?
We will certainly be updating Fashion Law yearly and who knows what else…

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
The designers I have worked for, including Stuart Weitzman.

What are you proudest of and why?
The balance in my life, between family, work, mentoring of young lawyers and designers, and teaching what I know.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do? Perhaps become a judge someday.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession? Alumni citation from Sarah Lawrence College, Volunteer Citation Award from Coalition for the Homeless, First Step Program

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
My apartment in the middle of Times Square

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
Stuart Weitzman
What is your favorite drink?
What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
Seasonal (58th between 6th and 7th)
What is your favorite Manhattan book?
Catcher in the Rye
If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
A Broadway Theater because that was my first great love. 

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 
Taking my son to hockey practice at Chelsea Pier for 10 years. 
What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Theater going. 

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Frick Museum
What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Underrated: our amazing diversity; Overrated: nothing.
Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
Women’s Shoe of the Week … need I say more!
What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I am generous with advice and kind to a fault.
How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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