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When Kerri Sengstaken isn’t tracking trends for Dav — the all-weather boot company she started with her husband — she can be found on their family farm in Ojai, Calif.
“Our passion is horses and ranch life,” said Sengstaken, who passed on her love for riding to her husband, Dave, and their teenage daughters, Ashley, who rides Western, and Eve, who rides English.
Raised in Texas, Sengstaken owned a horse and competed in rodeo barrel racing events throughout high school. “Now we have a ranch [with] four horses, two goats and chickens that our family enjoys every day,” she said.
It has also proven to be the perfect testing ground for the brand’s equestrian-inspired boot collection — even in the early days.
“They truly fit my lifestyle, which included being in and out of the barn during the day while balancing a job and family,” Sengstaken said. “Many women with horses have the same lifestyle, so we quickly started to develop additional boots that would fit this market.”
While Dav’s debut collection in 2007 included two equestrian looks, today half the line is focused on the riding category. According to Sengstaken, these boots are not only meant to function in wet weather but provide protection in muck and mud. And, she said, they don’t retain odors associated with horse stalls. “They can be rinsed and then worn out to lunch or the mall,” added Sengstaken.
The brand’s equestrian series is based on a classic contoured riding silhouette that follows the leg and foot for added support and stability. The styles also feature a riding heel and a nonslip sole. “Dav is not a sloppy muck boot or rainboot,” explained Sengstaken. “They fit like leather boots.”
Although function is important to the brand’s identity, Sengstaken incorporates key fashion trends, especially those from the riding world. “All the best designs in fashion come from an equestrian influence,” she said, referring to the heritage of such brands as Hermès, Chanel and Gucci. “They’re timeless, classic looks.”
For spring ’13, the Dav line includes a shiny red ombré design, leopard print, as well as quilting effects and hardware. “Customers love the fashion [aspect],” Sengstaken said. “We have fun with the patterns.”
Currently, the brand is distributed in both fashion and equestrian specialty stores. And while equestrian accounts, including Saddle Up Tack in Poway, Calif., make up 10 percent of distribution, Sengstaken noted, “Our customers shop in department stores and equestrian shops. The horse girl is also a fashion girl.”
To reach the core equestrian market, the company exhibits at the Western & English Sales Association trade show in Denver.
“Dave or I always sell at these shows personally,” said Sengstaken. “We love the industry and speak ‘horse and rider.’ We love to share with customers how we wear Dav on our ranch and how each style works well for different functions.”
To further support Dav’s involvement with horse culture, earlier this year the brand participated in the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky., the first to be held in the U.S. “We outfitted equestrian teams with our products and had a mini store there for one month,” recalled Sengstaken. “We loved being in our dream world surrounded by the best riders in the world.”