Industry Interviews

Robyn Catinella
Agency director

August 15, 2018

Those who know Robyn Catinella, know she is a force. An avid photographer, Robyn Catinella is an engaging, big picture thinker who is full of zest for her clients and her namesake agency CATINELLA, which she established after many years as a Communications and Wholesale Director at Collette Dinnigan, EVH Agency and ELLERY.

Tell us about your formal background and a retrospective on your career to date.

Originally from Sydney, I moved to Melbourne to study Communications at Monash. After completing my BA I worked at Cactus Jam, a Melbourne retail institution. As General Manager I oversaw 56 staff and managed 9 retail stores. In addition to developing my retail management experience, it was in this role that I became more acutely involved with the press and events side of the business. I saw firsthand the unique importance of each in supporting the development of a brand and communicating the story to the customer.I moved back to Sydney to work with Collette Dinnigan where I was responsible with managing all international press and sales, and where I experienced firsthand the magic of Paris Fashion Week. After that I worked at EVH as Sales and Press Director before returning in house for a Director role at ELLERY, managing press and sales. It was a wonderful journey, but after 6 exciting years, I made the decision to start CATINELLA. making the journey with a brand from infancy and watching them grow is the most rewarding part of my work and CATINELLA has given me the best platform to do that every day.

Was communications or wholesale your first love?

For me I find both disciplines go hand in hand, I haven’t been able to choose one or the other throughout my career. I do inherently use a PR approach for sales showroom. Both communications and wholesale circle back to the one brand strategy. Every brand requires both disciplines to build brand equity in today’s climate.

How has establishing your own business affected you? What have been the challenges and rewards?

CATINELLA has been such a journey, and something that I have worked towards my entire career. In the beginning it was about keeping it niche, finding brands that needed nurturing, and working with them to achieve their potential.There have been ups and downs of course and learning the back end of running a business alongside actively staying involved is perhaps the most challenging aspect, but its importance cannot be underestimated. Watching both the brands and my team grow and learn along the way has been the most rewarding experience.

In your twenty plus years in the industry, how has the landscape of communications and/or wholesale changed?

The biggest changes definitely have come from the advancements in technology. Online retail has seen such a boom and the wholesale market has seen a knock-on effect. It’s the same with communications. The ‘age of Instagram’ and digital media has been a wonderful disruptor, and the industry has had to adopt and adapt. The beauty of both is that they are always changing but always receptive to this, continuously adjusting.

Any advice for young start-ups or individuals wanting to emulate your career pathway?

I have long adhered to the mantra that it is the human that makes the difference, and personality is a huge part of potential. My best advice is to be genuine, have an abundance of initiative and pursue passions. If you are honest with yourself and your goals, you will often find that you are better equipped to reach for and achieve them. Degrees are great and if you find that is the best way to learn, do it wholeheartedly. Otherwise get stuck in and gain experience – both good and bad. Every individuals career path way is unique, and it’s a solo journey, but if you do it with vivacity and the right attitude, you can go far. I also believe in the importance of mentors. No-one else can do the work, but having someone there to guide you, show you the way and support you is vital.

What is the process in selecting or taking on a client?

We’ve been lucky in that we’ve never yet pursued a client, instead finding that each have found us naturally and organically. It’s always nice to hear from people who want to work with CATINELLA and each potential client is discussed as a team. From initial reach-out to a decision, we always consider where a brand could fit within the stable, whether they complement our current clients and whether CATINELLA is the best fit for them.From there if the fit seems right, we will establish a vision for the brand and meet with a designer/s to see if our visions align. If we all agree, this is where we form what we like to think of as a partnership, and from there it’s all about working towards the common goal and what’s best for that brand.

What is the best piece of professional advice you’ve received, and why?

Trust your gut instinct and listen – both are key. And that sometimes the power lies in saying no. These two things have proven themselves true time and time again.

Do you have a mentor?

I’ve always kept mentors close to heart, and there area few very special people who have been pivotal to my journey that I am thrilled to still call both mentors and friends.

You travel so much of the year and spend a lot of time in Paris. Do you love coming home to Sydney or do you love the international side of the business?

Travel is always exciting and has become a huge part of my life, but there is nothing like coming home to my family, home dinners and friends at the end of it all. I feel lucky that I’ve had the chance to travel so much with the business and professionally, and it always gets the adrenalin pumping. But home is home.

What excites you about the future of your company?

Everything. It has been phenomenal watching the business grow and change and adapt over time. No two days are the same and I’ve learnt that any premeditated plans can quickly change. What matters is how you respond and embrace it.

How big a part does technology and social media play in your personal life?

It has had a huge impact on my business and I embrace it. I have my next gen millennials on my team who also help to keep me updated but it really has become a way to communicate to and with the world. That said, I think it’s also important to take time to switch off and step away–enjoy time in nature and embrace your surroundings. I love a photo, but sometimes you just need to take a mental picture and be present instead.

What has been your favourite project or career milestone?

Everything I have achieved for my clients both past and present has been a journey, and each holds a place in my heart. Working with Collette Dinnnigan to open the Qantas First Class Lounge was particularly memorable, as was staging the first on schedule Paris show for ELLERY. Such projects are the result of long hours and hard work and sacrifice – the latter was a four-year dream that involved working closely with the Chambre Sydicale to make it happen. Yesterday I had a designer tell me we had achieved everything they had possibly wanted for their re-brand and that in the process I had shown her how to love what she does for the first time in her 10- years of designing. This is the ultimate and why I love what I do and why launching CATINELLA has been the most personally rewarding ~ itǯs truly my baby and it has given me the platform to work with multiple designers directly and achieve new things.

What are your passions outside of work?

Photography, travel, good food and great company.

What is exciting you next Robyn?

The future is very exciting – we are working on some great projects at the moment and there are some really exciting things to come with CATINELLA, but first holidays with my husband!

Image source from Robyn’s Instagram: @robyncatinella

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