BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Catherine Brink makes you think April in Paris even if it’s freezing outside. Chic yet casual in denim leggings when we visited recently, Catherine’s grace recalled St. Jean Cap Ferrat, where her Francophile family summered as she grew up, and where women always seem to move with effortless elegance like herself. It is not a surprise to learn that she now embraces a new career in fashion, using entrepreneurial skills honed in her continuing work as an executive recruiter.
As Chicago brand ambassador for Charlotte Brody, Catherine well represents the New York line known for lush fabrics and terrific workmanship.
You are most likely to see Catherine in either an elegant A-line dress with her favorite Stuart Weitzman boots or leggings paired with a sweater from her vast collection. The mother of two equally beautiful daughters, who’ve attended the Chicago Lycée Français as she did in New York, reports: “I am always on the go and these pieces are easy yet stylish.”
“As a teenager growing up in New York I loved pretty things and probably was a slave to fashion. After I graduated from Princeton, a girl friend and I took yearly trips to Paris. Parisiennes always express that je ne sais quoi confidence, dressed to the nines, always in their heels. What’s not to love about French fashion?”
In addition to fashion advice, her experience as a recruiter makes her a perfect mentor as well:
“In your career you often don’t know what’s coming next, and you have to know how much you can take. You need to engage and choose options, and realize that sometimes you don’t have the bandwidth to do the job. To do your best job, you need to follow your passions.
“Look at what you have done well in the past. If you are a working mom, you possibly don’t want a 9 to 5 job. The market is now supporting working moms with more freelance jobs that can be more flexible.”
Catherine began her advertising and marketing career right after graduation from Exeter and Princeton, with the international firm of Ammirati Puris Lentas, working in business development. After many “crazy nights, and lots of pitching,” she transferred to J. Walter Thompson, where she became head recruiter and director of training and development.
She worked for the Anne Brown Company for several years as an executive recruiter, partnering with many national agencies, leaving in 2014 to found Catherine Brink Executive Search LLC. Now she concentrates on advertising and marketing searches while balancing her work with Charlotte Brody.
“I have always worked in planning, finance, and executive searches, not on the creative side of the business. I truly enjoy fashion, and my new career keeps me out of trouble. It is great fun visiting with friends at our trunk shows and other events.”
After having attended a trunk show featuring Charlotte Brody fashions, Catherine thought that the classic, feminine looks spoke to her demographic: busy women in their 30s and 40s but also had lots to offer those aged 20 to 80. On our visit Catherine told us about their spring line, which she will be sharing at trunk shows in Chicago and surrounding suburbs:
“For Spring 2018, Charlotte Brody travels to Mexico and Costa Rica. The colors of the collection are celebratory and reflect both cultures’ love for bright vivid colors. Reds, hot pinks, palm greens, and ocean blues are shown in our original designs, which feature exclusive prints, hand-painted fabrics, and hand embroidery. The various silhouettes are evocative of the incredibly diverse flora and fauna found in the region.”
“Rather than take your chances at a department store, with our line you have the opportunity to customize pieces and see what most flatters your body. And the hand embroidery makes things fun and a little unique. The fabrics, like silk charmeuse from Paris, can last a lifetime.”
When asked how a young person can get their start in fashion, Catherine offered this advice:
“Start with a look you love and decide what style speaks to you. Is there a particular fashion designer that you like? Decide if you want to work in sales and try to get a job working for your favorite brand. Follow up with that particular designer.”
Catherine and her husband, Charles, are parents of Pippa, 10, and Chloe, 15.
“When the seasonal lines arrive, they love trying on the new pieces and talk about ‘mom dress up.’ Chloe has her own style: conservative, youthful, and fun, with an edge. We have a rule when we go shopping: she can veto one thing that I like and vice versa. But I don’t have to worry, her sense of style has evolved well.”