Forbes-recognized lawyer finds fashion industry is just her style
Ali Grace Marquart left Park City for the University of Southern California with a dream. But it’s funny how dreams can change.
Fortunately, the path that led her away from what had always been her dream led to finding her true passion — one in which she is forging a successful career. Marquart, co-founder of Marquart & Small, a law firm that represents models and fashion designers, recently was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in the law and policy category, a designation that might not have happened if she had never stumbled into the fashion industry.
"I guess I fell into fashion," said Marquart, 29. "I’ve always had an interest in it but it really wasn’t my focus. I was really interested in entertainment instead. I think growing up in Park City and seeing Sundance roll in and out every year gave me a taste for that pretty early. I decided that was something I wanted to be a part of."
At USC, Marquart’s dream of a legal career in the entertainment industry was flourishing. She scored internships at HBO, the talent agency ICM Partners, and New Line Cinema, where she worked in the legal department on the film "Wedding Crashers." the time she graduated, she had built a foundation in the industry.
But during law school at UC Hastings, a stroke of luck altered her path. An internship in New York City at the celebrity division of Wilhelmina Models — which at the time was owned by a family friend who Marquart had gotten to know in Park City — gave Marquart her first foray into fashion. When she returned home to California, she missed it.
"I went back to San Francisco and the pace just felt so slow compared to New York," she said.
When the opportunity arose to go back to New York and work full-time for Wilhelmina Models, Marquart didn’t hesitate to take it. Still, she thought she’d return eventually to entertainment.
But she quickly discovered something interesting. Other attorneys working in the field didn’t have the finesse the fashion world requires. They didn’t speak the language. But she did. And what once was a detour soon became her passion.
"I figured I’d do it for maybe a year or two and then be able to go from there into a big law firm that represented talent and was more on the entertainment side than the fashion side," she said. "But I think I found that it was a real niche that was underserved."
After committing herself to the fashion industry, she found success. In 2013, she and a partner opened Marquart & Small. In the year and a half since its opening, the firm has taken off. Marquart’s services include negotiating endorsement and branding deals, along with movie and television contracts, among other transactional work.
"We’re jills of all trades," she said. "We do a little bit of everything."
Making the Forbes list has validated Marquart’s career path, the success of which, she said, is the result of an obsessive focus on the quality of her work.
"It’s huge for me. It’s a big deal," she said. "But I think I’ve always kind of been like this. I’ve always been pretty ambitious, sometimes to my own detriment. I was super excited (to make the Forbes list), though. It means so much to be recognized like that."
She also attributes her success to growing up in Park City, where she was surrounded by people who taught her how to channel her ambition.
"Park City was so amazing for me," she said. "When we moved to Park City — and I think I appreciate this more as I get older and come back there — but it was such an amazing mix of creative, interesting people."
It didn’t hurt that she was also the benefactor of the public education offered at Park City High School.
"We have one public high school, but it’s such an amazing school," Marquart said. "I’ve lived in L.A. and I went to a great college, and now I work in New York and work with people who have been Ivy League-educated and who have gone to these very intense, very rigid private high schools. Yet I don’t feel that anyone got a better education than I did."
Now that she’s found a home in the fashion industry, the next step for Marquart is to innovate within it. She hopes to find a way to merge her passion for the fashion industry with her old dream of working in entertainment.
"I have a lot of interests but they all relate to the fashion industry now," she said. "I’m really, really interested in bridging the gap between entertainment and fashion. I think they have so much to learn from each other, and I want to be a part of fusing them more and more. That’s the direction I’d really love to go, and be involved with different companies and different clients as I go."
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