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Justine Wilkie: Fashion Lawyer


Justine Wilkie, 29, is a fashion solicitor at Taylor Wessing. She lives in south London with her fiancé Chen, who is also a lawyer.

"When my alarm goes off at 7.30am I pour myself a glass of orange juice while I check my email to see if anything has come in overnight from our offices in China, Paris or Germany. I eat a bowl of cereal or porridge with fruit and watch Sky News while I’m getting ready. I try to wear stylish clothes as I don’t want to look too stuffy, so I’ll team a pencil skirt with a top from Reiss and heels from Kurt Geiger. The creative clients I work with dress far more fashionably – I don’t think I’d get away with hotpants in the office! I blow-dry my hair then apply Bobbi Brown foundation, blusher and mascara.

I use my 20-minute train journey to our offices near Chancery Lane to read fashion updates on my BlackBerry and magazines. I’m lucky – for most people that’s not work but for me it’s a chance to check if any of our clients’ designs have been copied by other brands. I’m quite an argumentative person, so my favourite sort of work is bringing claims against companies who have copied our clients’ shoes or dresses or tried to rip off their trademarks.

We recently had a court case for Christian Dior regarding unauthorised imports of their clothes. I drafted the witness statements and worked with our trainee lawyers, who got the fun job of going to take pictures of genuine Christian Dior bags, which formed part of the evidence that we sent to court. It was really exciting when the court decided in favour of our client.

We also act for Guerlain, so if someone tries to register a trademark – such as a brand name or logo – that’s too similar to one of their own, we try to prevent it happening. We write to the company and ask them to change it, but if that doesn’t work, we issue formal proceedings, writing a long document setting out the reasons why they shouldn’t be able to register the trademark based on Guerlain’s history.

We recently had a court case for Christian Dior regarding unauthorised imports of their clothes

For lunch I have noodle soup or a sushi wrap from Abokado at 1pm. We’ve recently become involved in a new mentoring programme with the British Fashion Council to give legal advice to British designers who are establishing global businesses. They often encounter problems internationally, particularly in China. People there are knowledgeable about up-and-coming designers so they register their names as trademarks and it’s really difficult for the real designers to get them back.

In the afternoon I have conference calls with the Institut Français de la Mode to discuss a joint conference we’re running this month in Paris for luxury brands such as Chanel, Prada and Dior. It’s focusing on travel retail (duty free and airport stores), which is a really hot topic because so much of their business comes from those outlets.

It’s also my job to watch Dior fragrance campaigns to check that they comply with UK rules. I recently reviewed two ads which showed Jude Law and Kate Moss driving classic cars that didn’t have seatbelts. This could be seen as encouraging people to be reckless, but we checked the law and discovered that it wasn’t necessary, so the ads could run. It’s always exciting to see a campaign that I’ve worked on appear on the big screen.

I usually try to finish work by 7pm, although if I have a big case I can end up working late. I’ve become obsessed with reformer Pilates so I go to classes with a friend, or once a week we’ll have drinks with clients or at barristers’ chambers. I’m trying to eat healthily as I’m getting married in October so if I’m at home I make something quick like salmon with vegetables or a stir-fry – I don’t eat red meat. I’m always about five episodes behind what’s on television so we catch up on shows we’ve recorded on Sky Plus, such as The Good Wife or Gossip Girl. I usually aim to go to bed by 11pm but often stay up chatting to Chen, although we try to avoid talking about law."



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