BEHIND THE SCENES WITH OUR FOUNDER, VICTORIA ASUAJE
HORSE & STYLE: VICTORIA, TELL US IN AN INTRODUCTORY FASHION, WHAT IS CRINIĒRE?
Victoria Asuaje: I describe Criniēre as a very feminine and sophisticated equestrian brand, with a unique and beautiful design aesthetic. I also like to use the word “vanguardist,” because I think of Criniēre as being a bit revolutionary.
As an equestrian apparel brand, Criniēre strives to be the go-to brand for riders who want to feel an unparalleled sense of sophistication and effortless beauty. Our mission is to invite female riders (and hopefully one day men, as well) to feel unique and elegant, but, at the same time, flirty, risky and playful. It is a tough but exciting mission. I love the idea of captivating attention and surprising people with that je ne sais quoi feel in every design made; you shouldn’t have to sacrifice elegance or functionality to feel fashionable and daring.
When I started the brand I was guided by the tagline: “Daring creativity to break the limits of the equestrian style.” We want to push the boundaries, and this has always being Criniēre’s challenge with every garment made.
But I have to add, there are some guidelines that will always keep me grounded because creativity makes you fly sometimes! At the end of the day, this is a sport of dedicated and passionate athletes. My motto for designing never to sacrifice elegance, quality or functionality; the three key pillar points for our sport.
H&S: HOW DID THE IDEA FOR YOUR BUSINESS COME ABOUT?
VA: I was at my very first show at WEF, I believe it was in 2015, where I came across all of these beautiful and amazing brands that just blew me away. It was as if they were all reading my mind. I have to add that where I come from, my beautiful country of Venezuela, our equestrian attire was always very classy, but also a bit primitive and old school. So, when I sawpieces from Cavalleria Toscana, Manfredi, and Equiline – among others – out there, truly revolutionizing the equestrian apparel industry, something clicked and made me realize that the ideas I had in my own mind would be well-received by riders. Right then and there, I decided to start the journey of looking for the right manufacturer and exploring the technical fabrics. And, after much trial and error, I came out with my very first collection, called “Entre Nous.”
H&S: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME FOR YOUR COMPANY?
VA: This is a question I love to answer because there’s a bit of nostalgia behind it, which always brings back good memories.
I was a very creative child and my family used to say that I had my head in the clouds. So, when I spent my sabbatical year in Montpellier, France, like most people, I fell in love with the French culture, the food, the language, the romanticism, the history; I just loved it all! I knew my brand name would be horse-related but also rooted in this culture, but I couldn’t quite pin down a name. So, I asked my cousin Silvia (my go-to for exceptionally good ideas and advice) and set her on the task of brainstorming a horse-related yet subtle, and oh-so-French name.
One day as she was getting into her car, leaving in a hurry, she yelled out, “Got the name of your brand! What about the word ‘Crin?’ It was short and sweet, and known as an element that enhances the beauty of the horse. I was immediately captivated with the word, so when I googled the word “Crin” in French, Criniēre actually showed up as the true French translation of the word “mane.” I was blown away with the beauty of the word. And so Criniēre was born.
H&S: TELL US ABOUT YOUR TYPICAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN EQUESTRIAN ENTREPRENEUR.
VA: I must warn you its not very glamorous, but I love it. So, here we go: We recently moved to Ocala, Florida, and like everyone else, COVID-19 has really changed my day-to-day. I wake up around 7:30am (wish I could wake up earlier but I’ve been working late at night and doing the million things I did not have time to do during the day). I make coffee, start breakfast for the family (sometimes my husband does it for me, and I love him for it). We always like to eat together as a family, it is a great way to start the day.
Then I head to my office, finish my coffee while looking at emails and go over my to-do list (highly recommend everyone prepare a daily to-do list). In the morning, tasks like packing orders, replying to emails, preparing content for social media or website arrangements, and reaching out to wholesalers are always good things to do which leave me feeling very productive, given my short amount of time available. Lunch is followed by nap time for the kiddo which gives me 1–2 hours of complete peacefulness as I gear up for a second round of office time for Criniēre. In the late afternoons, I ride my horses, spend time with the family since we live in the barn with my mom and my step-dad, and eat Argentine “parrillas,” which are beyond delicious. Through the hardships and a big change in our daily routine, I am blessed to have this new routine where I can spend time with my family, ride my horses, work and be surrounded by nature.
H&S: HOW HAS BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR AFFECTED YOUR FAMILY LIFE?
VA: I am forever grateful for my husband. When Criniēre was just beginning, he gave me the time to build the brand, he believed in me when I was doubting myself. He worked two jobs so we could have enough to pay the bills and save some money. I have always been involved, by the grace of God, in the equestrian community, but this is a very expensive sport and my family was not always able to support this way of living. So we had our struggles, but we always had faith in the process. Thankfully, being an entrepreneur has had a positive impact because I have had the support of my family from the beginning.
H&S: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE TOP THREE SKILLS NEEDED TO BE A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR?
VA: Passion, determination and consistency. I believe being an entrepreneur has a lot to do with listening to your inner-self, that voice inside asking you to do more, to create something you can be proud of, and to leave a legacy. I have had a passion for riding since I was a little girl, so I acquired the discipline that comes with being an athlete from a very early age. Then I competed in Modern Pentathlon which was double the commitment; I had to learn how to compete in fencing, how to swim professionally, how to shoot, to be an efficient runner and practice consistency. I even went to compete in Brazil and Mexico. It was definitely very rewarding but also taught me how to get out of my comfort zone, which I think is an important thing for building a brand like Criniēre, because many times you have to get into unknown waters.
H&S: WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?
VA: Balance and time for myself. Having a healthy balance of family, work and hobby (which is riding, of course). And a good horse show weekend is for sure a good boost to start the week motivated!
Business-wise, customer feedback always proves to be a wonderful motivator.
H&S: WHO HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATION?
VA: I have several people, actually, that truly inspire me. I admire my mom’s incomparable faith, her passion and determination to build our lovely barn, Cavalia Stables, together with my step-dad Luciano, who always wants to give his best at everything he does. It’s truly admirable. My husband, of course, for his good heart and how he deals with hard situations in life. The business values from my dad and the fearlessness and solid grounding of my sister. She is always the person I go to when I am not sure of a sample because she is so sincere and straightforward. All in all, I am inspired by those I love and care about the most.
With regard to the equestrian fashion industry, Gigi Hadid is my forever fashion legend. She has revolutionized the fashion/ model industry in such a clever way and at such an early age, plus she is a total horse girl. I love that despite her background, Jessica Springsteen is most recognized for her talent, hard-working attitude and humble heart. And lastly, Georgina Bloomberg is a great human being and an excellent rider. She has brought so much goodness and positivity to our sport and this society! With her non-profit organizations and care of rescue animals, she has become a great inspiration for all equestrians.
H&S: ANYTHING NEW AND EXCITING FOR EVERYONE TO LOOK FORWARD TO FROM CRINIĒRE?
VA: Oh yes! We are always working behind the scenes to surprise you. We have a new collection coming your way, that will delight our riders with new and sophisticated pieces to add to their equestrian wardrobes, while leaving them feeling elegant, chic, and unique. There are more schooling and show shirts in the works, which will include some badass collaborations. But you’ll have to stay tuned – we can’t give away too much. Oh! And lastly, we are working on the eagerly-awaited Criniēre breeches that I am sure you will all love. Plus we love to give our clients some good offers every now and again. Be sure to check our Instagram @criniere_life and website at crinierelife.com for all the latest updates.