Catalina Girald: Fashionista-in-Chief

Having first discovered Catalina Girald’s BigLaw connection on Law Shucks, we recently caught up with Ms. Girald to find out more about the former Big Firm lawyer turned model/fashion entrepreneur.

Name and current title?

Catalina Girald
Founder and Fashionista-in-Chief
Moxsie, the online retail destination for independent designer fashion.

Law school?

Boston College Law School.

Law review?

I would have never made law review. I absolutely hated law school, so I enrolled in New England School of Photography concurrently. I spent a lot more time in the dark room and hanging out on the floor of the photo galleries at NESP with the artsy folk than I did in the law school library.

Law firm?

Skadden, Arps.

Practice area?

Mergers and Acquisitions.

What sent you to law school?

In my family, there were really only two career options: Doctor or lawyer.

In college, I majored in biology because I wanted to be a surgeon—but the one thing I was terrified of was Calculus. Every time I enrolled in the class (about three times beginning my senior year in high school), I would drop it for fear that it would hurt my GPA. One day my career counselor pulled me aside and told me that if I wanted to pass the MCAT, I would have to overcome my fear of Calculus. There was no way that was happening, so I changed my major to political science and decided to go for career option number two.

Five years later, I was standing in line in Albany to take the New York Bar Exam, and the guy in front of me started asking people why they had gone to law school. When I told him my story, he said, “But there’s no Calculus on the MCAT!”

“How would you know?” I replied.

“Because I paid my way through law school by teaching MCAT for Kaplan—trust me, there is no Calculus on the MCAT.”

So, I stared at him in frustration and exclaimed, “So, what the hell am I doing here?”

And that is the story of why I went to law school. Ironically, I ended up having to learn Calculus to attend business school at Stanford. It wasn’t on the GMAT, but it was a pretty big part of the economics class.

What was harder, Business School or Law School?

Academically, law school was harder. Especially because of the competition for grades.

I had the good fortune of going to Stanford for business school where there are no grades, so class was a lot more about learning than about making the grade. In business school there were classes, like statistics, that I had to take, but I wasn’t at all interested in. So I would go, but I had the choice of focusing my energy on an engineering class “across the street” (the term for non-business school classes) and a design class at the Stanford Design School that was teaching something I really wanted to learn.

I learned a lot in both schools, but I learned a lot more in business school than I did in law school.

What was your best moment as a lawyer? Worst?

My best and worst moments were actually the same. In Mergers & Acquisitions, we used to take a sick pleasure in working (and bragging about working) really long hours. I once billed 137 hours in one week and by the end of it, I barely knew my name.

But there was always something really exciting about those weeks, closing a deal, feeling the adrenaline flowing in the room, watching the press release appear in the Wall Street Journal after submitting the last change to the PR hours before, and running around like crazy at the printers. It was hellish, but it taught me that I could do anything.

Describe your “I have to get the f**k out of here” epiphany.

I used to love working 100-hour weeks and bragging about it to colleagues over Thursday’s attorney lunches. But then it got to the point that I couldn’t stand being at Skadden any longer—not even to use the free gym facilities with subsidized personal trainers and gym clothes that they would wash for you. A lot of us felt this way, and people dealt with it differently.

One friend of mine at Skadden took a job across the street at The New York Times writing for Bold Face Names (a now-defunct gossip column). He would hop back and forth from the NYT office and Skadden as needed. It kept him sane.

He eventually convinced me to enroll at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology). So, I started doing the same—I would hop back and forth from classes on 27th and 7th to meetings on 42nd and Broadway. In between all of that I would take Kaplan GMAT classes online and do practice questions on the subway.

How did you decide on fashion?

I’ve always been obsessed with fashion and design, and through my travels, I have amassed a collection of pieces that you can’t find locally and aren’t readily available online either. There is no way for online consumers to find cool, new brands online using simple keyword searches, so solving the problem of creating a direct connection between the designer and the end consumer so that the consumer can efficiently discover fashion online became my mission.

I think we’ve made great headway in solving this problem—but it is all still hidden in our private beta.

What’s Moxsie all about?

Moxsie is all about independent fashion designers from around the world. I set out to create a centralized destination where consumers could go to find the coolest brands on the planet as well as brands that are green or socially responsible.

Moxsie is a place to purchase, but it is also a place to come and hang out and learn. We place a lot of emphasis on telling the story of each designer and each particular product so that the consumer can develop an intellectual and emotional connection with the product or brand. I was always a fan of the J. Peterman catalog when I was a child. I loved reading about the exotic places that the pieces came from, the history behind the garment, and the inspiration behind the design. That is the feeling I am trying to recreate at Moxsie.

What led you to modeling for Moxsie?

I want to show the world that beauty is in the everyday person. The iconic, anorexic model shouldn’t be the ideal of beauty—a lot of Photoshop goes into those shots, and they create unreal expectations and low self-esteem in girls and women. I want to move away from that, so Moxsie uses real people as models. I just happen to be one of the real people.

Our current models include an architecture student and a physicist from Hewlett-Packard who one day hopes to win the Nobel Prize in Physics.

What’s a typical day like for you?

This is so cliché, but there’s no such thing as a typical day. That’s why I like it.

Right now, I’m in Las Vegas for the industry shows with designers (who are a crazy bunch), and then I’m flying to New York to meet with more designers. On nights that I travel, I usually end up at a club or bar around 3:00 AM with assorted designers, stylists, celebrities, and backers. I get to meet a lot of interesting people and learn about their experiences.

For example, I got to hang out with Eric Ryan, one of the founders of Method, two nights ago. That was really exciting for me since I’ve always admired his business—even better was his willingness to share his experiences with me as an entrepreneur.

Last week you would have found me ironing clothes, styling photo shoots and taking breaks to talk to our VC investors. We’ve just launched five new designers and orders are flying out the door, so I want to be back in the office to keep an eye, but I have to rely on the staff to keep me updated.

Did you ever consider yourself a Bitter Lawyer?

I don’t think I’m a Bitter Lawyer. When people ask me, “Should I go to law school?” my first reply is “No!” But that is just because so many people I know become lawyers, don the golden handcuffs and end up feeling unfulfilled with their work life.

But I owe a lot to the practice of law. For starters, the first partner I ever worked for (at Winston & Strawn) invested $100K in Moxsie and has been a phenomenal mentor throughout this process. I also owe a lot to Skadden, which taught me that I could push myself to work so hard that I could accomplish anything. I know that it is possible to work around the clock and get the impossible done within a very short timeframe because we worked miracles all the time at Skadden—and no one ever died of exhaustion.

Lastly, had I not become a lawyer, I would never have met my best friends.

What advice would you give to lawyers out there who are looking to do something else?

I think that if you are unhappy with your job you should move somewhere else. Life is too short, and lawyers are too risk averse. Go out there and try to do what you love. If you don’t like it, you can always go back to the practice of law—it is a skill set that will never leave you.

Any fashion advice for lawyers?

The clothes you wear at work really give you credibility.

For men: Stick to nicely tailored suits, 100% wool (always). When in doubt about ties, play it safe. Funky socks give you a little bit of personality.

For women: This one goes out to a particular partner at Skadden—don’t wear tights with your skirt suits. Ever.

Obviously, with a mission to promote independent designer fashion, Moxsie won’t carry Hermes or Ferragamo, but we do carry stuff lawyers can wear off hours.

I recommend the men’s shoes from 100 Styles and Running, which are a hybrid between dress shoes and street shoes—like the most comfortable Vans you wore in high school, but with better lines and the highest-quality material.

For women, I love the trinkets and baubles that we carry from Potluck Paris, a bold and sometimes delicate line of jewelry from Europe.

  • Anonymous

    You go, GURL!  You show these wimpy men that Women like us, who ROAR, don’t need to rely on boys to make it happen!  We need to have more FEMALE role models like this, who went to law school and business school, made their mistakes and now have come out on TOP!  Yea! Go GURL!

  • BL1Y

    @5:27: What’s with the “This woman is great, therefor all women are strong and awesome and all men are wussy losers” attitude?  Have you considered that women are individuals, not just pieces of a faceless, impersonal collective object?  This one woman’s success doesn’t mean shit about you.  You are not her and she is not every woman.  It doesn’t matter how many happy and successful women there are if you yourself are a miserable wretch stuck in a job that makes you ever more bitter by the moment.  PS: Did you even read the story?  She said she needed a boy to push her into fashion in the first place.  I’m glad she doesn’t have your Us v. Them mentality.

  • Alma Federer

    BL1Y, I think she makes a good point.  Women are successful without the need for men.  Yes, some man said she should follow her dreams, but it was HER dreams she followed, not some weenie telling her what to do.  I concur.  Long live the self-actualized WOMAN, and boo on you male weenies who would otherwise try and subjugate our desires.

  • Ace in the Hole

    We shouldn’t harsh on Alma anymore BL1Y – her “Women rule, men suck and are trying to keep us down, oh and BTW, I want a man to go to work so I can stay home with my kids and a nanny and go shopping” posts are the bitterest pills on this whole site.  Her entitled, us vs. them attitude has kept her single into her 30s and it’ll only get worse from here, so don’t hate – feel bad for her.  She does not live a happy life.

  • BL1Y

    Alma: You mean some women are successful without the need for men.  Some women define success as finding a man to rely on (see:  We actually don’t know if Catalina relied on a man to get where she is.  We know that she got a partner to invest a ton of money in her business, and we know that partners are overwhelmingly male.  But, it doesn’t matter.  She’s not a strong woman who made it on her own.  She’s a strong woman who made it with help from others, just like all successful people, and her success is not diminished one bit by getting help from anyone, male or female.  I think what you fail to realize is that for the most part men and women both want women to be successful; we just have different reasons.  I want more women to be successful so the world is a happier place.  You want more women to be successful to validate your feelings of female superiority so you can insult men and call them weenies.

  • Alex Hump

    I agree with BL1Y.  I also think that this ex-law woman is HOT.

  • Anon

    wow she is impressive

  • Bill Dugan

    Agree with the HumpSTER. If the picture up top is this woman, she’s going to go far.  Alma, you are so prejudiced against men, I can’t understand why?

  • Criag

    Why do all these comments descend into some kind of sex/gender war? This interview does not focus on the fact she was a woman, but instead focuses on the fact she was a former lawyer. I hate to agree with BL1Y (and frankly, I have been hesitant to respond directly to any of these comments for fear that I will start sounding like you guys), but he is right when he said that everyone is an individual. I don’t hate/like people based solely on gender, or race, but based on them as individuals. Maybe becoming a lawyer brainwashes everyone to see things in an adversarial light, when in reality, men and women are in it together.

  • Anon Female

    Go Craig you said what I have been wanting to say. Tools get a life! this focuses on the fact that this lady was a lawyer. Great interview.

  • Anonymous

    Haters go home.

  • Anon

    Craig is on the money.  Well said, my brother.

  • Miguel

    Is BC Law School considered good?

  • Faceless Beeotch

    I agree with Craig.

  • Anonymous

    Looks like Craig is attracting some new fans!  Way to go, Mr. Sensitive!  It’s easy to be politically correct in absentia, but in real life, just wait until he gets cut off making a left turn by some faceless beeotch–you will hear him swearing like a sailor!

  • Kirill

    Catalina sounds like she would be tons of fun to hang out with. Thanks for the interview. You’re awesome!

  • Jed

    Let’s meet at the club, catalina!

  • Anonymous

    I think this woman might have been named after an old Pontiac—the Catalina.  I grew up in one in the 1980’s, and had my first sexual experience in the back seat with a woman named Laura—what a beauty!

  • Kimm

    I liked the Moxsie cool stuff.

  • Cold

    Seriously?  No tights with skirt suits?  This is my standard uniform in the winter… how else would you survive when the temperature dips below zero?  (or freezing for that matter?) If I gave up tights, I think my skirt suits could only be worn 3-4 months of the year (I’m in Chicago)!

  • Anon

    I worked with her – she was mean and didn’t know what she was doing.  Can’t believe she is running a business…

  • Anon

    I used to work with her; she was a little mean, but yes, she was indeed hot. Glad she found her niche, it definitely wasn’t the law!