Lawyering in Socks That Pop
c.2014 New York Times News Service
NEW YORK — “When I come to Rag & Bone, I wear Rag & Bone,” Doug Hand said one Tuesday evening last month as he stood in the back of Rag & Bone’s meatpacking district store.
He is a man of his word, a man of the brand. Which in this case means he was wearing a Rag & Bone tweed blazer with a matching vest underneath it, a light blue Rag & Bone shirt with a comfort collar, dark Rag & Bone jeans, brown G.H. Bass saddle shoes, a navy pocket square and a plaid scarf around his neck.
Hand, 44, is a lawyer.
The lawyer for Rag & Bone. The lawyer for 3.1 Phillip Lim. The lawyer for Anna Sui.
As well as for Steven Alan. Rodarte. Cynthia Rowley. The Council of Fashion Designers of America. Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, the designers of Public School. And that’s a tailored list.
Hand is emblematic of a certain type of New York striver, the kind intent on gaining entry into a glamour industry not by being inside it but by being in service to it.
Married last year to Dany Levy, the founder of DailyCandy, Hand is an often-photographed party-page denizen, uses Il Cantinori like a personal dining room, gets his blond locks tended to at the John Barrett Salon in the Park Hyatt Hotel and takes pride in the smallest detail of his personal presentation, down to his navy and white striped socks.
“I like a little pop in the sock,” he said. “My ankles looking like a yummy piece of candy? That’s OK with me.”
Although there is a patina of glamour that encircles him (the glittery dinner parties, the well-connected wife and even yummy ankles), Hand spends large parts of his days doing fairly mundane lawyering. He drafts internship agreements, negotiates contracts with manufacturers abroad and marks up documents protecting intellectual property.
But this is the sort of legal help that up-and-coming designers need, and Hand is happy to provide it. As a founding partner of the boutique firm Hand Baldachin & Amburgey, he operates like a talent scout. He connects with designers early in their careers, helps them get jobs and investment capital, and plays the role of professional counselor/therapist/financial adviser as he rides the career elevator up with them.
In 2006, Hand joined forces with Marcus Wainwright and David Neville of Rag & Bone and helped secure their first major cash infusion from businessman Andrew Rosen.
“He’s been there since Marcus and I were two people in an office,” Neville said. “He’s seen everything, good and bad.”
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He acts as consigliere as much as paper-pusher.
“What he does is a lot like an agent,” said Robert Tagliapietra, the co-designer of Costello Tagliapietra, for which Hand ironed out terms of a collaboration with the Japanese discount retailer Uniqlo.
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But that’s just the day-job part of his job.
Sitting through awards shows, engaging in the exchange of industry gossip, and picking up large tabs at the Boom Boom Room, these are the job requirements that Hand greets with the most relish. On his Twitter feed, @Handofthelaw, he posts selfies that highlight the fashionable life of a fashion lawyer, looking — to quote his good friend and fellow man about town, Euan Rellie — like a “1950s movie star.”
Everywhere he goes, he dresses the part. Hand’s ensembles almost always correspond to which clients he will be seeing. Thus the Rag & Bone uniform that he wore when meeting with its design team to discuss new product introductions in the corporate office upstairs from the West 13th Street store.
It left him quite well suited to head out into the Manhattan night.
First up: drinks with his friend and client Jason Stalvey, a 34-year-old who oversees a neurological sleep medicine practice at Columbia University by day and also designs a line of $17,800 alligator-skin gym bags. (They’re sold at Barneys.)
The two men met outside the Brass Monkey on Little West 12th Street. Stalvey was wearing a white V-neck T-shirt that hugged his pecs and an equally form-fitting motorcycle jacket.
Settling in at a corner banquette, Hand ordered a glass of Lagunitas IPA, and began to run through his own biography: Grew up in Laguna Beach, California. Attended Vassar in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he sang in the a cappella group and double-majored in philosophy and psychology. Went on to law school at New York University, spent many a late night at Moomba (“wild nights,” he said, “a lot of fun”) and after getting his J.D. in 1997, took a job at the white-shoe law firm Shearman & Sterling, as an associate in mergers and acquisitions. (In 2009, Hand had a son with his first wife, fashion designer Katherine Zorn.)
Ultimately, he and two colleagues built Hand Baldachin & Amburgey, which specializes in having clients in glitzy fields, including interior design and sports. (For example, Hand has worked on various branding efforts for the Brooklyn Nets.)
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Invariably and sometimes inexplicably, conversation with Hand turns to the subject of fashion. Such it was as he snacked on a Brussels sprout salad.
Discussing his wife, he said that they spar for closet space at their apartment near Union Square. He lived in France after college and fell in love with cashmere sweaters. He was drawn to NYU to study law because of the wardrobe required by a cold winter.
“Part of why I moved East was a desire to wear different clothes,” he said.
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Around 7:30, Hand paid the check, said his goodbyes to Stalvey and hopped a taxi bound for NoLIta.
There, he was to attend a party for another client, menswear designer Todd Snyder.
Inside Snyder’s Elizabeth Street store, Hand perused the racks, which were filled with fancy cotton sweatshirts emblazoned with the Champion logo. The pieces were born of a partnership deal Hand had negotiated between Snyder’s label and Champion.
It was clear the event was not exactly going to be star-studded, but Hand wasn’t complaining. He is the sort of fellow who will go anywhere in the service of a client or a potential one.
Hand glanced toward the front of the store and spotted another client: Nickelson Wooster, the 55-year-old Instagram sensation and fashion gadabout.
He walked over and complimented Wooster on his jodhpur-like pants.
“These are nice,” he said. “I have to wear a suit everyday,” he added.
“Your job is to look super-handsome and super-tall,” Wooster said, sounding less than sympathetic.
Hand made another dip into the crowd and found Snyder standing in the middle of the store.
The two men began shooting the breeze and Hand mentioned that he’d just come from meetings at Rag & Bone and was now also representing Wooster
“You have everybody,” Snyder said, finishing off a Manhattan cocktail.
A waiter approached with another round of drinks, which Hand and Snyder eagerly accepted.
They clinked glasses.
“To continued success,” Hand said to his client and perhaps to himself as well.