How I Did It: Catherine Obrenovic - Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka

How I Did It: Catherine Obrenovic

Bubbly and steadfast, the Co-Founder and Director of l’Atelier Touché, oozes charisma and chic appeal.

Pamod Nilru

She’s qualified in insurance law, but she’s made her mark in two of Sri Lanka’s fast-growing industries—food and fashion. With an infectious enthusiasm, Catherine commands the attention of any room. Here, she shares her restaurateur know-how, favourite outfits and go-to style tips.

Q/ What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt over the course of your career?

A/ Always have a positive attitude, show respect, accept criticism, be open to what surrounds you and what comes your way, and keep learning. With passion, determination and tenacity, you can achieve anything you want.

Describe yourself in one word:

Passionate

Favourite vacation spot:

Sri Lanka as a whole is so beautiful, but if I had to choose, my favourite spot would be Haputale

Q/ Do you have tips for anyone looking to get into the restaurant industry?

A/ Loving food is a great start, obviously, but it takes so much more to jump head-first into this industry. It’s a consuming field that requires all your attention from the moment you wake up to the second you close your eyes. Along with a deep-rooted passion, it’s equally important to have the support of your loved ones.

Once you’ve fulfilled these two areas, aim to get enough experience in all the departments that make up a restaurant. Every section is necessary, and must work in synergy and harmony with each other to make the restaurant a success.

Additionally, try to team up with someone who knows the business, because although it might appear to be the simplest and most common entity in the world, a restaurant is one of the most difficult of ventures to develop and prosper.

One thing that’s always in my bag:

A little bottle of perfume

Q/ How did you juggle your roles in food and fashion?

A/ As I mentioned, the hospitality industry is time consuming, but I’m truly blessed to have an amazing man who has always supported me in all my professional decisions. When I decided to add the fashion element to an already very busy daily schedule, he continued to be completely understanding and helped me make it work.

But there are only 24 hours in a day, and after a few years of combining food and fashion, I had to face the terrible fact that I was not getting any younger. I also realised that I had limitations: I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I hardly had time for my family, my phone was permanently glued to my ear, my computer was always on, and more importantly, I had a young son that spent more time with his nanny than his mother.

So, it was time to make a choice. In January 2016, I made the difficult decision to put my love for the Food & Beverage industry on hold. This allowed me to focus on the development of our fashion brand and boutique – l’Atelier Touché – that my partner Heidy Rampinelli and I opened in March 2016.

My happiest memory:

Each time my son says, “I love you, Mummy.”

Q/ Tell me how l’Atelier Touché came about.

A/ Touché was founded in December 2012 from a passion for fashion shared between Heidy and myself. At that time, we couldn’t find any boutique in Colombo that retailed clothes we loved to wear, so most of our shopping was done overseas. To solve the problem, we decided to create our ideal closet with noble textiles and materials imported from Europe and Asia, and so our brand was born. Currently, we retail our collections at PR and at our flagship boutique.

Favourite past time:

Reading and shopping

Q/ You are always so stylishly dressed! Are there any go-to outfits you absolutely adore and how do you accessorise them?

A/ The shoulders, collarbones and neck have always been my favourite parts of a woman’s body. So, I simply adore strapless or off-shoulder outfits that highlight these areas. They are also incredibly simple to accessorise. Pull your hair into a low bun and add a beautiful pair of long earrings that follow the line of your neck; it’s elegant and will bring out your féminité (that’s French for femininity) and sensuality.

My make-up essential: 

Terracotta powder by Guerlain

Q/ What do you think it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in Sri Lanka?

A/ Faith in the huge potential of the country, long-term vision, creativity, respect for all the people who work for you, honesty, accessibility, and above all, consistency. It is also vital to adapt to the Sri Lankan culture and the pace at which things are done. You must be very flexible and unendingly patient.

Heels or flats:

Flats only during the day and heels at night.

Q/ How to do you stay so fit?

A/ When you love food and wine like I do, and when you indulge in them very often, you have to really make an effort to stay fit. It starts with healthy living and eating habits at home. I try to catch as much sleep as possible; I drink my favourite white tea throughout the day; and I eat plenty of raw or steamed vegetables and salads to accompany my grilled piece of fish or meat.

I also try to stick to a weekly exercise routine, with a 30-40 minute jog and a half-hour of Pilates outdoors, 4 or 5 times a week. This is my precious feel-good period that I carve out for myself.

Favourite food:

Chocolate éclairs

Q/ If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

A/ I would’ve loved to have studied hotel management and obtained a degree in hospitality, instead of my background in insurance law. Managing a hotel is something I’ve dreamt about for a very long time!

The quality I admire the most in others:

Joie de vivre [Enjoyment of life]

First style icon:

Audrey Hepburn

 

This article was originally published as ‘How I Did It’ in the March 2017 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more career advice, grab a copy of our latest magazine.

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