Kerrits Equestrian Apparel
"Horses have been my passion for as long as I can remember, even before I could talk!" admits Kerri Kent, dedicated outdoors type and founder of Kerrits Equestrian Apparel. "As a young girl growing up in Canada, I did everything I could to be involved in the horse community. I cleaned stalls in exchange for riding lessons. I took every opportunity I could to be around horses. When I moved to Hood River, Oregon, in the mid '80s to be a competitive windsurfer, I had the chance to live on a small farm so I could have horses of my own."
Wait--did she say "competitive windsurfer"? It gets better, as Kent's introduction to apparel design actually came in the context of the ski industry (that's right, the ski industry). "In 1986, I used what I learned about the construction and manufacturing of performance garments and started my own swim and active wear company, branded as Kerrits Activewear," she explains. "The niche it filled was simple: providing functional clothing that looked great, too! In 1991, I took an opportunity to design a line of equestrian apparel that combined my knowledge of technical performance fabrics with my passion for horses. Kerrits Equestrian Apparel was born!"
As Kent explains, Hood River abounds with outdoor sports from windsurfing and skiing to mountain biking and riding horses--making it the ideal proving ground for performance fabrics and garments made from these fabrics. "Hot or cold, rain or shine, it is understood: Dress for your sport and the weather that comes with it," she says. "Being a rider and manufacturer here, I am in the unique position to test products in a variety of conditions."
Kent especially enjoys finding innovative ways to use performance fabrics in riding clothes. "For example, from working with ski vendors, I developed a synthetic leather fabric that would provide riders with a no-slip grip," she maintains. "I named the fabric GripTek and use it in a variety of ways in the Kerrits line: the fullseat of the Sit Tight, the palm of the GripTek Glove and (instead of leather) in our GripTek Gaitor."
Her favorite design from Kerrits' 2008 line? The Bootcut Tight. "The slimming silhouette and casual cut allows me to wear it to work, pick up my son, go the grocery store and hop on my horse for a ride," she says. "It's the perfect multi-tasker for working moms on the go!"
Yes, as busy as she is, Kent still rides. Her current herd includes five homebred Dutch Warmbloods, and when she gets the opportunity, she loves to event. "The balance of my time is spent working on the family cattle ranch in Washington," she adds. "Riding in a variety of disciplines at the ranch and eventing gives me a variety of experience that inspires my designs."
It's obvious that Kent loves what she does. "I enjoy the challenge of the business and the opportunity to create new and exciting clothing for riders," she says. "I take pride in the fact that each finished product is a true team effort, drawing on my own riding experience, the knowledge of my staff and input from our team riders to create the clothing we call Kerrits.
"The next frontier for me is finding new ways to manufacture [with] minimal impact on the environment," she continues. To that end, look for Kerrits' new division, g.r.a.s.s., which features green riding apparel for style and sustainability.