Riding breeches and tees sporting two distinctive offset parallel bars are being seen with increasing frequency in show rings in Canada and south of the border. For the creators of Struck Apparel, launched in 2014 by Kevin Maxie and Ashley Glanc of Erin, Ontario, creating their apparel business has been a labour of love stemming from their deep commitment to the equestrian industry.
It all started when Kevin came home one day with a nasty, ill-fitting pair of green breeches that “made me look like Robin Hood: Men In Tights,” he said, laughing. “It was really unfortunate and we thought ‘there has to be a better way.’ So we did our research and went to trade shows, saw what other companies were doing, and didn’t find anything. Our idea was to bring a bit of Nike or Lululemon-type flavour to equestrian apparel.”
The couple, who got married in 2017 and both compete on the ‘A’ circuit, make effective business partners as well. “It comes very naturally to us; we’re both very artistic and business-minded,” explained Ashley. “We bounce ideas back and forth and we usually come to a very happy medium.” Kevin has an MBA and an engineering background; Ashley’s is in interior and architectural design. “We both studied a lot of not only horse trends, but business trends, fashion trends, and we’re both into marketing and branding,” Ashley added. “We do a lot of case studies on what good branding is; the same applies to our fashion line as every other sportswear line.”
Their simple logo evolved due to an initial disagreement over the brand name. “I wanted lightning bolts on my pants,” said Kevin unapologetically. “Originally, I wanted to call it Lightning Strike Apparel and hustle it with a slogan like ‘Awestruck. Love Struck. Get Struck. Lightning Strike Apparel.’” While that didn’t fly with Ashley, the ‘Struck’ part stuck, however. “The logo was originally three bars, but we eliminated the middle bar and it looks like an ‘S’ now,” Ashley pointed out.
Their first breeches designs were tailored for the discipline they knew best. “We started with show jumping, because that’s where our friends are. We started with knee patches and now we’ve branched out into full seats and another model that’s popular with eventers. We’re working our way through all the disciplines,” said Ashley.
They test the prototypes themselves initially. “Once it is at least semi-ready for public consumption, we give it to our friends, test riders, and sponsored riders and they put it through the wringer and give us feedback,” said Kevin, adding, “Every time we make a new batch of breeches, we try to improve something.” Fellow Canucks have been very supportive. “The Canadian riders have been awesome; our brand is on half the Team at any given moment,” said Kevin proudly.
Struck currently offers three designs for both men and women in schooling and show models in a large array of colours (and yes, they do have a lovely emerald green!) – the 50 Series original knee patch breeches (still their biggest seller); the 60 Series breeches with slightly more advanced knee-patches, and the 100 Series featuring a full seat. Other pieces include t-shirts, caps, and riding socks, and while they are working on other apparel ideas, Ashley said, “We both made a decision that we wouldn’t release anything unless we felt we could improve upon it. There is amazing stuff out there already and unless we can add to it, we aren’t going to waste our time – or anybody else’s.”
Plans are to release show shirts this spring show season, and eventually show jackets. Additional designs of breeches will incorporate sportswear technology such as compression fabrics that help stabilize knee position or help riders with bad backs, as well as heat technology and other functional technology currently available in mainstream sportswear that they would like to see brought into the riding world.
Struck products are currently available at struckapparel.ca, retailers across Canada, some outlets in the US and a couple of retailers in Europe. “We’re spreading the word,” said Kevin, adding that the couple zipped off to Italy for “a proper honeymoon and a bit of business” right after the Royal Winter Fair in November.
Their direct-to-consumer sales opportunities, such as at the Royal and Land Rover Kentucky, are limited for good reason, explained Ashley. “We can’t be away for too long, so we try to pick strategic events where we can do some product knowledge and get a new audience and then leave it with a competent retailer. They know their market the best and we can’t be everywhere at once.”
When not completely immersed in the business, the couple hit the shows: Kevin has been showing Ashley’s horse Doctrino in the 1.30-1.40m classes, while former eventer Ashley in turn rides Kevin’s “grand prix horse that didn’t want to be a grand prix horse,” Carino, in the hunters. On the circuit, the couple is known for their sense of humour that makes Kevin a favourite in the costume classes. “It started as a sort of joke. He did the derby course and rode part of it shirtless. He won that year!” said Ashley, laughing. The next year he showed up as Clark Kent and morphed into Superman partway around the course; in 2018 he was the Headless Horseman astride a stunning ‘skeleton’ horse painted by Ashley.
This playful spirit has obviously carried over into their business ventures. “We really try to keep it lighthearted and fun,” said Ashley. “That’s kind of the basis of why we started Struck Apparel – we wanted to bring the fun and athleticism back to the sport.”