We had the good fortune of connecting with Caterine Lopez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Caterine, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I see risk as an opportunity to explore, grow, and find meaning. One is only able to know the outcome of taking a risk if they decide to take it. Then, that outcome, whether expected or not, will allow you to assess, understand, and ultimately learn. That experience is vital for the process of entrepreneurship as well as many other experiences in life.
I also believe that taking risks is the only way to really pursue one’s dream. A clear risk-taking moment for me was when I made the decision to volunteer for a NGO in New Delhi. This experience was very challenging as I had to pause my career, live in a completely different continent, learn an entirely new culture, and meet new people. Broadly speaking, the task at hand was showing a group of young girls that there was life outside of the slums where they grew up. The ultimate goal was to ensure that they enrolled in school (which was not endorsed by their families) and had a chance to build a better life for themselves. Many of the young girls were inspired by just seeing someone from outside of their circle and culture informing them that they had options and to not settle for the status quo, but instead, to make their own decisions in order to pursue a better life. I was also deeply moved by the mission that the NGO wanted to share— if you have the chance in life to pursue your dreams (even if your environment tells you not to take the risk) you should take it.
Then, like many others, following my undergraduate studies, I embarked on a path of self-discovery trying to find that elusive panacea where my future would be a seamless labor of love. I spent 6 years at Colombia’s largest infrastructure private equity fund. I can honestly say that I was a good lawyer, and when you’re good at something, naturally, you enjoy doing it. My family was pleased. However, through it all, I felt like something was missing. Yet no one seems to have an answer for how one is to figure out what he or she loves. There is no prescription or kitschy dogma to follow for that step. It is left up to the individual. Therefore, during this bout of introspection, two thoughts came to my mind. One was from my childhood when I would try on my mother’s wardrobe, thinking that I was exquisitely stylish. The second was when I founded Noi-Vestidos, a wallet-friendly dress rental business with my mother. The resulting conclusion was that I have always been passionate about fashion, and I realized that this hobby could be my career path. So, I finally came to the decision to leave the day-to-day world of business law and move to New York City to study Fashion Marketing at Parsons School of Design.
This change opened hundreds of doors I would not have opened if I would have stayed in Colombia. I had the good fortune of learning new things, meeting people from around the globe, trying food that I didn’t even know existed, and most importantly, found the inspiration to launch Way Forward—a premium, casual apparel brand made that features unique handcrafted creations of artist and designers.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
WayForward is a premium quality, casual wear brand. Our collection emphasizes true street style, with every piece being unique and coming straight from the artists’ hands. We center around true artistry to produce magical pieces that can be worn always and forever.
At WayForward, we showcase unconventional designs and creative ideas from artists collaborators, whose hand-crafted pieces provide a glimpse into their stories, memories and soul.
We call our first drop, CHAPTER # 1 – Forever & a Day- because it is the beginning of an infinite jourday. In this chapter, we worked with a Brooklyn based artist who is passionate about the beauty of the looms and their feel. She mainly uses recycled thread from materials she already used in her installations, as well as threads she spins and dyes by hand.
We make products that inspire by reminding us that every piece – like every person – is a treasure. Carrying this mission further, we are built on values of sustainability, transparency and respect, valuing the time, work and experience of the individuals who contribute to each garment.
But before launching WayForward, it was not easy at all. When I started this journey I knew that I was living what, for many others, is only a dream. I was studying fashion in NYC, after being a lawyer, in one of the best universities, meeting people from various cultures, and visiting the most beautiful museums and parks. But the joy I found in all these things vanished when I divorced my first love. I was still going through the motions but it did not bring me the same happiness I felt before. But, then, one night, I watched “The Cruise,” where the main character, Timothy Levitch a witty tour guide, who exuded such passion for NYC, stated “I am equally in love with every aspect of my life and all the ingredients that have caused me turmoil and all the ingredients that have caused me glory”. This really struck a chord with me. Unlike Timothy, I had not embraced, let alone accepted the bad “ingredients that caused me turmoil” like my divorce. So I made an effort to adopt his outlook. I decided to value every bitter and every sweet moment equally, including my divorce, because all the events that happened in my life were necessary to weave together the fabric that makes me who I am. I could not afford to lose perspective and become blind to opportunity by dwelling on the negatives. Now, I embrace the misfortune, learn and become stronger from it. I must accept both the good and the bad alike, and push myself no matter what happens, this is a mantra that drives me. For that reason, the name of my brand is Way Forward, because I want to inspire individuals to do everything in their power to never settle and instead move their life and dreams forward. My mantra is always forward, never back.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It is so hard to squeeze everything that I like into one week, but I would suggest the following:
First stop: rent a bike. I have a bike, which is one of the most precious assets I have in NYC. It is the easiest and fastest way to move in the city and access beautiful places. For example, biking around Central Park is one of the most incredible experiences. I recommend visiting the Bethesda Terrace, which is famous for its Angel of the Waters statue located in the center of the Fountain, then going to the little Zoo, and riding past the outside of the The Met Museum. Then, we would take a break and have a picnic. After a long day of biking, a bowl of pasta at Piccola Cucina uptown is the best way to end the day.
Wake up early and bike to The Met and spend the whole day exploring. A visit to the rooftop of the museum is mandatory to have a drink and enjoy the view of Central Park from the top. Then, we would head downtown to have dinner at Cafe Mogador, a beautiful Moroccan spot in the Lower East Side.
Another early morning, so we can take advantage of all the beautiful things that the city has to offer. This time we would ride along the Hudson River, stopping at Little Island located on Pier 55. It is one of the most interesting parks with a very modern design and beautiful gardens. Then, off to breakfast at the Butcher’s Daughter. They have one of the best banana breads in the city! Next, we would head down towards the Brooklyn Bridge, passing Battery Park and the Statue of Liberty in the Financial District. Once we cross the bridge, we would take a break on the steps of Jane’s Carousel to see the wonderful view of Manhattan! Then, a little snack at 12 Chairs, one of the best Israeli restaurants around. On the way back to the city, we would take the Manhattan Bridge to explore Chinatown a bit. Our final destination would be dinner at Raku Soho – by far one of the best authentic Japanese restaurants in the city! Their tuna tartare and other exquisite bites are to die for!
It is almost the end of the week, and it is time to start the party. So this time we would begin a bit later with brunch at Two Hands, an Australian restaurant on Bleecker Street. Following brunch, we would take a stroll around Soho and do some shopping. I like to visit The Real Real—it is the best place to find curated, designer brands, and support a sustainable lifestyle. Then, we would stop by Dante in the West Village for dinner and drinks. It is considered one of the best bars in the world, and I can attest to that. After that, we would meet with friends at Seville – one of my favorite spots to dance in the city.
We would start the day by taking a train from Grand Central to the Botanical Garden in the Bronx, which is another majestic park that houses rare flowers and trees. It is a magical place to spend the day and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
At night, we would have dinner at Catch. The seafood is amazing, and the environment is very vibrant, so it is the best spot to start the weekend.
A perfect post-dinner lounge is Butterfly. Great spot to enjoy the nightlife, and meet new people.
We would start with a late lunch at White Horse Tavern – they have one of the best burgers in the city! I recommend ordering a side of sweet potato fries and avocado. Yum! Then, we would walk the High Line Park and pick up a cold coffee at Chelsea Market to enjoy while perusing the Meatpacking District, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city.
We would then get ready for another fun night. Starting with a light dinner at Llama San in West Village—a Japanese and Peruvian fusion restaurant. Then we would head to ART Soho, a rooftop bar and finally end at the Public Hotel rooftop bar in Nolita.
On Sunday, we would visit another museum.. the MoMA (save the best for last). After that, we would have a late lunch at The Mark Restaurant by Jean Georges, which has this incredible lemon pasta. On our way home, we will stop at Bergdorf Goodman, my favorite department store in the world due to the visual merchandising showcasing both new trends and classic items. It is like Disneyland for fashion lovers.
On the last day, I would finish off with a bike tour around Flatiron, Union Square, Washington Square, and Chelsea to visit art galleries, and finally have a late lunch at Los Tacos No.1, my favorite Mexican spot in Chelsea market.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My dear mother. She has been key in all the projects that I have executed in life. She has always been by my side no matter how bizarre the idea is. She is my biggest supporter and cheerleader. She helped me a lot with Way Forward, in fact, she personally attached every single textile artwork to the sweatshirt by hand. It took her many days and hours. She put all of her love into every stitch, and you can see it in each hoodie. Additionally, I am sure that I had inherited a good eye for patterns and colors from my mother who taught me how to sew when I was young despite me not being able to excel in that skill. Regardless of how senseless my ideas or dreams seemed, my mother always encouraged me and stood by my side to help me achieve my dreams. I am forever indebted to her for her care, support, and unconditional love.
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The brand was launched in April in NYC. The collection was shot in a chic, modern apartment in Chelsea decorated by the renowned @galerie.Philia. The designs of the apartment capture the pure style of WayForward, the photos were shot by the outstanding Colombian photographer @andresoyuela, styled by @thedarkblone and the models were @anitahodosi & @shred.chris with makeup done by @jofrancoartistry