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Jeannie Suk

In legal circles, Harvard law professor Jeannie Suk is known for her work on feminist issues and for being the first Asian-American woman on Harvard Law School’s tenure track, said Christopher Muther in The Boston Globe. Lately, though, she has found herself “at the heart of a heated debate in the fashion world about designer dresses and $900 shoes.” That’s because she’s leading a movement to grant American designers copyright protection from cheap knockoffs. New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, who is drafting a copyright bill that for the first time would cover fashion, has tapped her as an advisor.

Suk sees nothing frivolous about the issue, pointing out that budget-price retailers like Forever 21 and Steve Madden make millions off copies of gowns and shoes that originally cost thousands of dollars. And she points out that copyright protection would help young, up-and-coming designers, who, unlike their more established counterparts, can’t afford to sue their copycats. Suk finds no dissonance between her feminism and her interest in fashion. “People have a lifelong relationship with the clothes that they put on themselves,” she says. “One way or another, we all have a stake in what we wear.”

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