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The Burch Trial: ‘A Drunken WASP Fest’

Judge Leo Strine got a few choice comments on the record at a scheduling conference on Thursday.

One of fashion’s biggest legal tiffs might not be a laughing matter for the parties involved, but that isn’t stopping presiding Judge Leo Strine from getting a few choice comments on the record. At a scheduling conference on Thursday, Strine, of Delaware Chancery Court, weighed in on everything from the timing of a trial to the ever-elusive definition of a WASP and why John Cheever is a must-read for this case, which he described as a “drunken WASP fest.”

Here, a selection of some of his views from the bench:

• Judge Strine on his role in fashion law: “This is like a scheduling conference. That’s all it is.…I didn’t see any reason to burden anyone’s Hanukkah, New Year’s, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus with this preppy clothing dispute. I don’t know why — I guess I did this to myself, but somebody in the room started the other tradition of giving — where, for some reason, I get all the preppy clothier cases, because I’ve had J. Crew. I’ve had — I think because I’m culturally steeped in it since I was nine years old and learned what was hard for a kid from Baltimore, duck shoes? What’s a duck shoe? You know, and then you see all these freaks wearing this really ugly — I like L.L. Bean, but those duck shoes are ugly. I mean, there’s no way around it. So I think for both sides, it might come as news, you know, there’s really nothing all that new about bright clothing and all that kind of stuff. So the novelty of any of this may be something that I have to discover for myself, although I do think the juxtaposition of Two Fat Guys and Talbots in Greenville is just a beautiful thing.”

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• On the image of the WASP: “Honestly, there are hundreds of people in New Castle County who could make a bunch of clothes if you gave them the catalogues. I’m not saying Mr. Burch — it’s going to be interesting, because there’s what Tory Burch was before she met Christopher Burch, and there’s what Christopher Burch was after Tory Burch became the Tory Burch in The New York Times, and there’s maybe influences that go in a lot of directions here. There probably are lots of catalogues people could see. There are all kinds of dream images of the world. The WASPs, right?”

• On the shopping habits of WASPs: “Real WASPs actually don’t go and pay full Polo price. They don’t pay full Polo price at Macy’s. No way. They actually will find a bargain. That’s how they got to be, you know, WASPs. When Tory Burch became popular, no one said, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is the newest thing that ever happened.’”

• On writer John Cheever and why the case will be a “drunken WASP fest”: “I’ve been deep in it, in an autumnal Cheever phase. I’ve been reading all kinds of Cheever. I’ll have to just keep that up through the — through the case. Have you read your Cheever lately? You know who he is? I mean, it’s — you know, and ‘Mad Men’ will be coming back at some point in time. I think if you read Cheever, go see the new Virginia Woolf revival and watch ‘Mad Men.’ We’ll be all geared up and in the mood for this sort of drunken WASP fest. Are they WASPs? Are the Burches WASPs? Do we know?”

• After being told that Tory Burch is Jewish and Christopher Burch is “not Jewish”: “OK. But not Jewish doesn’t make you a WASP because it could make you an equally excluded faith like Catholic, right? I mean, that’s not a WASP. You know, a WASP is a WASP. So you know — I think you’re going to have to have interrogatories about who’s a WASP. And I’ll certainly be attacked as anti-WASP, probably, and then I love all WASPs. I’m bringing actually Rodman Ward Jr. in as my expert because I always used to tell Rod that he actually had a lineage chart in his basement which had all of the DuPont family trees on it. It was like some people have war rooms. He had that to determine how they were actually related to the DuPont family. So I think we might be able to have some unique experts in Delaware.”