Embark has been transforming the lives of street dogs and the communities they live in since 2007. The opportunity to reach out and make a difference with its multifaceted approach to animal welfare, is the driving force behind Embark’s dedicated team.
Focused not only on rescues or adoptions but also sterilizations, vaccinations, education and campaigning for improved policy with regard to animals islandwide, the Embark team takes the welfare of street dogs in Sri Lanka forward against the odds.
Inculcating values of respect, responsibility and compassion towards all living beings, Embark’s fundamental aim is to create a platform that inspires people to become agents of change, love and compassion.
The Embark brand offers customers a diverse and unique line of pooch-inspired clothing and merchandise. With its bright hues, bold slogans and trendy motifs, the collection appeals to the fashion-forward of all ages. The brand’s mascots; street dogs Niko, Bandit and Rozzy continue to inspire product designs and capture the hearts of Embark fans across the globe. All the profits from the sale of merchandise are used to fund Embark’s extensive welfare work.
From bringing home a lion cub from the zoo, to raising an abandoned baby squirrel on her own at the age of 4, Otara Gunewardene has loved animals of all kinds since childhood. This passion spurred her to pursue a degree in Biology at Bowling Green University, Ohio.
Years later, back in Sri Lanka, a chance request by an apparel manufacturer to help dispose of surplus export garments led Otara to set up a shop in the boot of her blue Station Wagon, which gradually grew in profit and scale. She consolidated this early success by selling to other clothing stores in Colombo and as demand grew, Otara opened her very first store, Odel. From the initial 1, 000 sq. ft. space, to 20 stores island-wide – Odel evolved into one of the largest retailers in the Asian region, with a flagship store reminiscent of Harvey Nichols or Harrods.
Whilst her career in fashion progressed rapidly, her love for animals and her interest in improving their lives never diminished. With her years of experience in business and entrepreneurship she also gained the invaluable ability to see into the heart of problems.
With pedigree dogs being in popular demand, countless street dogs in Sri Lanka who needed care and attention often lived difficult lives on the streets, and were always deemed less worthy. It was with this thought in mind that Embark was initiated in 2007. With an inbuilt sustainability factor, Otara diligently focused on numerous projects while partnering with different organizations and professionals to improve the welfare of street dogs in Sri Lanka. Understanding early on that animal welfare work requires a means to be self-sustaining, Embark was molded to support its own rescue work through profits made from its trendy clothing and accessories collection. This link to fashion also resulted in a paradigm shift where adopting a Sri Lankan street dog became fashionable. Otara consistently leverages her fashion and business success to create sustainable models for animal welfare projects, and she is particularly adept at using her retail skill to raise funds for the cause. She not only uses her celebrity status to focus attention on the work that Embark does but also on encouraging a general positive change in attitude towards animals and the environment.
Embark has succeeded in not only making a significant change through its own work, but has also inspired countless others to move from ignorance to empathy and from fear to compassion for the animals they share their space with. Otara was the initiator but is also the backbone of this operation, never failing in her passion and dedication to the cause.
Pashionable people are a new breed of fashion-conscious people, passionate about making positive lifestyle changes. They believe in and are part of a growing movement which contributes to improving the lives of dogs in need through the deliberate choices they make in the way they shop. Pashionable people are part of the Embark lifestyle, they are passionate about giving love, kindness and happiness to all living beings and stand behind the values that Embark was built on. With compassion and an understanding of how every decision we make affects all others - this is the Embark culture, these are Embark people...
The Embark fashion brand is characterized by its three mascots, initially Niko, later joined by Bandit and Rozzy – all street pooches adopted by Otara. They give hope to many others like them in need of love and care.
Otara was driving home from work when she saw three tiny puppies playing on the side of the road. With a sense of uncertainty she drove past like many others unsure of what to do with a street dog. The following day, there was only one. A brown puppy with big eyes, all alone. This time refusing to be just another bystander she picked him up thinking that she would give him away to someone kind, but as it so happened Otara and her sons never did give him up. They decided to keep him and named him “Niko,” who subsequently became the muse behind the Embark logo and the inspiration for Otara to dedicate more time to expanding both the cause and brand.
Late one evening, a little black and white puppy was left on Otara’s doorstep by a stranger. Otara, now a veteran in the rescue and welfare field adopted the puppy without a second thought, naming him Bandit.
As a young pup Rozzy literally jumped into Otara’s arms and her life. Facing the far too common fate of street puppies in Sri Lanka who get pelted with stones and abused, Rozzy instinctually ran to a stranger she thought would protect her, the stranger turned out to be Otara. Found on Rosmead place which led to her being named Rozzy, after a few weeks at a veterinary hospital and some ice-breaking sessions with Niko and Bandit, she was adopted by Otara thereby completing the trio.
The Embark spirit owes itself to these three dogs who bring their own character and sense of fun to the merchandise undoubtedly making Embark a truly unique brand with a heartfelt vision.