Otara’s passion for Sri Lanka, its people and cultures, wildlife and environment, was kindled at an early age.
FROM BIOLOGIST TO UNEXPECTED ENTREPRENEUR
Otara Gunewardene’s passion for Sri Lanka, its people and cultures, wildlife and environment, was kindled at an early age. This passion, along
with her entrepreneurial spirit, continues to drive all that she does today.
Her love for animals led to a Biology Degree after which the world of fashion called. Otara’s confidence and sense of aesthetics developed with
a modelling career both in Sri Lanka and overseas, where she proudly promoted Sri Lankan designers and labels.
Wanting to offer emerging trends to fellow Sri Lankans, Otara began selling locally sourced garments from the boot of her station wagon, her first unofficial retail store! With her love for, and understanding of, style and fashion this evolved into Sri Lanka’s first department store. An icon of its time, and still revered today, Odel expanded to stores around the country. The driving force behind Odel was to open
up fashion retail opportunities, and, particularly, to offer products that were Sri Lankan made. As part of her continued mission to support
entrepreneurs and small businesses, Otara developed the stand-alone concept store ‘LuvSL’, which quickly became an integral component of
the Odel brand.
In 2005, through an encounter with an abandoned puppy, Otara’s life changed direction again, and Niko became a much-loved member of
the family. He also became the face of Embark – the organisation and brand set up in his honour to challenge the perceptions of street dogs, and to address their health and care.
Although no longer involved with Odel, Otara’s dedication to all things Sri Lankan, and her commitment to environmental protection, animal welfare, together with education and empowerment of marginalised communities, continues through the Otara Foundation.
Established to promote locally made products and support their creators, a cause that remains very close to Otara’s heart, ‘Who We Are’ is the her initiative. By developing more sustainable lifestyles, and deepening our connection with nature, our communities are uplifted and everyone benefits.