With her black Balenciaga pants, black Hussein Chalayan top and punkish hairstyle, Elizabeth Pearce doesn't look like a hard-driving attorney. Yet Betsy, as she likes to be called, is often the first person a designer contacts when it's time to sign a contract. She represented Alexander McQueen when he left Givenchy and sold a majority stake in his company to the Gucci Group. She handled the contracts for Lars Nilsson and Rick Owens at Nina Ricci and Revillon, respectively, and is representing architect Thomas Juul-Hansen in a deal to design stores for jeweler David Yurman.
Pearce, a seasoned entertainment lawyer who founded her New York City practice, Pearce LLP, last year, was drawn to fashion and design several years ago when the firm at which she was working scored Prada as a client. She savors the fact that no two negotiations are alike and, after concluding an agreement, often stays on as a consultant. "It's law, but it's law after business strategy," Pearce says. "You win by everybody winning."