Spring 2019

Brooklyn Law Notes Spring 2019

The general counsel at Kanye West’s company Yeezy discusses how remaining true to his creative passions led to his dream job

Before Kenneth Anand ’02 became the general counsel and head of business development at Kanye West’s fashion label Yeezy Apparel LLC, a partnership with Adidas, he spent years dressing in suits at New York City law firms. Today, at a dream job in Los Angeles with the popular brand, he’s kicking it in sneakers in a role that calls on his legal expertise and his passion for hip hop music and culture.

Anand, a native of Montclair, N.J., traveled creative pathways both before and after his time at Brooklyn Law School, remaining devoted to his early pursuits: sneakers, music, and computers. By middle school, he was a hip-hop fan, writing songs and freestyling with his friends and producing music, while owning Chuck Taylors in many different colors. His first pair of Air Jordans landed in his closet in the late 1980s. “I definitely became a ‘sneaker head’ from that point on,” he says.

Anand’s uncle, a computer programmer at Bell Labs, taught Anand how to build his first computer at age 7. His father brought home the Apple II computer, the first consumer product sold by Apple Computer, and Anand took it over. “When I started getting into hip-hop, I gravitated toward making software-based music. My friends and I used to make beats on a computer in high school,” he recalls.

As an undergraduate at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, he spent days in the music studio, learning the mixing boards. He switched his major from computer science to communications, with a minor in music and computers. After graduation and a year of trying to break into the music industry, he decided to take the LSAT and enroll in law school. There he also met his future wife, Safia Anand ’02, counsel at Olshan Frome Wolosky.

What were your early influences?
My parents used to say that my friendship circle looked like the U.N.—a bunch of Asian, black, Latino, and white kids. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a soft spot for creatives. My older brother was a naturally gifted artist from age 5. So I learned how to talk to creative people and to understand their idiosyncrasies and quirks very early in life.

My parents are academics. They met at NYU, where they both got their doctorate degrees: My dad has his dual Ph.D. in religion and philosophy, and my mother in education. Education was always important for us.

What stands out about your experience at Brooklyn Law?
My experience—from the people I met to the mental endurance I learned—has been invaluable. I met my wife Safia and some of my best friends there.

I was very social at the Law School from the beginning. In my first year, I started getting involved in the SBA (Student Bar Association). In my second and third years, I was elected SBA president. I always tell students that networking in law school is key, because 10 or 15 years down the line all of your peers are going to be doing something interesting, and they’re invaluable as friends and colleagues. The people I met in law school became my network.

What was your first job after graduation from law school?
I worked at a firm, practicing employment and labor law. That was the area I fell in love with first. I liked dealing with real human issues in the workplace.

How did you move from employment law to fashion law?
It was a bit of a bumpy path. In 2009, I was laid off from my law firm during the height of the financial crisis. My wife and I had just had our son Alex; he was six months old. It was a very challenging time. But, rather than get discouraged, I started my own law practice. I think that was the first time, despite the stress, that I saw a way to combine my expertise with my passions. I marketed myself heavily.

I immediately saw the value of my law school network. I reached out to all my classmates, offering to take on any referrals and overflow work, and their response was great. I reviewed employment agreements and severance packages. I represented fashion designers and clients in the entertainment world. I started to really understand the business of law, and how to bring in interesting work. After two years, I went back to a firm so I could offer more services to my clients. That’s when I really started trying to market myself as a fashion and sneaker lawyer.

How did you get the opportunity at Yeezy?
In 2016, I was working at a California-based firm when one of my LA clients, who I knew because his brother went to Brooklyn Law with me, called and said, ‘I’m going to work for Kanye West. Will you help me with my executive employment agreement?’ Of course, I said yes. A couple months later, when he asked me to do some more legal work, I saw an opportunity and was looking for a change. I took a leap of faith and asked him, “How about you just hire me, and I’ll do all of the company’s legal work?”

Two weeks later, I got the job. I flew to Los Angeles and started working as general counsel for Kanye’s fashion company, Yeezy. I knew this was it—every piece of my childhood and my entire career came together in one role. The only stressful part for me was figuring out what to wear on my first day.

Did you wear “Yeezys” (as the brand’s sneakers are popularly known)?
Definitely. I wore the original 350 v2 Belugas with jeans and a sweatshirt.

What’s the best part of your job now?
I love that it changes all the time. You never know what the day is going to hold, and that’s really exciting. Within my first year, I was able to save the company a significant amount of money in legal fees. I put new systems and processes in place. I also started managing business development, and I help with HR and benefits.

What’s the most challenging part?
Traveling back and forth between LA and New York for work can be hard, especially on my wife and our sons, Alex and Deven. They’re 10 and 8 now. I just hope my kids see a father who’s passionate about what he does for a living and puts his heart and soul into it. I hope that they follow their dreams the same way I was able to.

Any lasting lessons from law school that resonate today?
“Knowing your audience” is the number one skill. That’s what I learned in my legal writing class, and it’s been an invaluable lesson. I wouldn’t talk to my designers and my creative people the same way I talk to outside counsel. I have the ability to wear many different hats and switch them at any time.

The beautiful thing about the law is you can apply it to any profession, and I’ve been able to do that. In my business development role and the things I do that are not legal at all, there are still legal skills that I apply, like my analytical skills, and my questioning and reasoning.

You’re also blazing a new trail as co-author of a book about sneaker law. What do you mean by sneaker law?
It’s the body of knowledge about the multibillion-dollar business of sneakers and footwear and the role of reselling in the industry. As high fashion is being taken over by street wear, it’s important that people know more about the business of sneakers and its legal aspects—from how to protect yourself legally if you’re a designer, to how to buy and sell sneakers. There’s a significant number of cases in this area related to intellectual property and trade secrets.

And there’s a Brooklyn Law School tie to this book project as well.
Yes, I’m co-writing the book with a recent graduate, Jared Goldstein ’17 (corporate counsel at Undertone, a digital branding agency). We recently engaged a student, Rylan Brook ’20, through the Law School’s externship program, to help us with the book.

What’s your best advice for law students and your fellow alumni?
Be ready to hustle harder than anyone else. Remember, there are different paths to success with a law degree. Whatever your passions were before law school, don’t give up on them. Even if they don’t intersect with your work right away, they keep you excited. And when they do eventually intersect, it’s a beautiful thing.

This interview was conducted and edited by Jen Swetzoff.