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Stylin’ in the Rain

An Oxnard-based company shows the world of high fashion that you don’t have to sacrifice a drop of panache to gear up for the wet season.

By Allison Costa

 

erri and David Sengstaken lead a simple country life on their ranch in Ojai. They raise chickens, grow their own fruit, and—like most parents—try to leave their work at the office. “Some evenings we might be consumed with work, but we don’t want our children to pay for it,” says Kerri. On evenings like these, they wait until their young daughters go to bed before digging into their work, even if it means staying up late.

Dave and Kerri Sengstaken co-founded Style West in order to spend more time with their new daughter.

Together, with David as president and Kerri as marketing director, the Sengstakens own Style West, a successful Oxnard-based company that excels in marketing, public relations, and distribution for a number of high-end fashion brands. Also on their full plate is managing their own brand: däv. Launched in 2008, the däv line includes a wide range of fashionable rain boots, vibrant umbrellas, and handbags designed to bring high fashion to even the rainiest of days.

Style West has grown in both size and renown since its start in 1998, when the couple worked out of their Oxnard home. The company is still housed in Oxnard—but instead of the Sengstaken’s home, all of the operations take place in a 60,000-square-foot warehouse. The company now retains 45 full-time employees, and däv products are available in over 400 boutiques and department stores. däv boots have been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, seen in InStyle and Real Simple magazines, and worn by numerous high profile celebrities.

Designer Jason Moore works to keep the look fresh.

Yet despite Style West’s growth, the Sengstakens have remained authentic and approachable; and they have maintained a company culture that mirrors the relaxed atmosphere of a home office. Employees aren’t bound to a dress code and flip flops are embraced. The atmosphere at Style West is fun yet professional, and as Kerri says, “It happened naturally because it’s who we are and how we are.”

As they travel to trade shows, mingle with other designers at fashion week, and visit boutiques and department stores all over the world, the couple is proud of their Ventura County beginnings. When speaking with the press they always make it known that the company is in Ventura County, not Santa Barbara or Los Angeles. “There’s no other place we’d rather live,” says David.

Design Team Manager Christy Parsons holds high fashion and lush comfort of equally high esteem.

The idea for däv was born when the Sengstakens traveled to New York and clients would apologize for wearing their rain boots at the office, and then proceed to hide their feet behind the desk. “We set out to make contemporary rainwear for wet weather so you won’t have to hide your feet,” explains David. The inspiration for expanding the line into equestrian wear was born on their Ojai ranch, where Kerri damaged numerous pairs of leather boots raking out horse stalls. Now she can wear her stylish däv boots and hose them down when she is finished.

For the designers at däv, high fashion and lush comfort are held in equally high esteem. Houndstooth, animal prints, florals, paisleys, and plaids are just some of the classic patterns that make their boots irresistible. The English boots are equally fit for the riding ring or for a day shopping on Madison Avenue, and the patterned rain pumps are such a delight to look at and to wear, that they beg to be worn even on sunny days.

What makes däv boots such a joy to slip on is a PORON® insole, which offers heel, cup, and arch support similar to that of orthotics. Many of the boots integrate a neoprene stretch panel to enhance comfort, and others are lined with fleece to wick moisture. “You want someone to wear your boot and not want to take it off five minutes later,” David says.

A team of designers works year-round in the Oxnard office to come up with fresh designs. Kerri and David also stay on top of trends by attending fashion shows around the country. Kerri says, “We look for trends that aren’t going to be here for just one season...it’s about being classic, enduring.”

Though the Sengstakens have been blessed with success, they don’t take it for granted. Throughout the years they have donated money to autism research, animal rescue, and donated product to Soles 4 Souls, a charity that collects shoes from footwear companies and distributes them to people in need.

Looking ahead, the Sengstakens will continue to work on launching their newest brand, High Horse, a lifestyle brand that includes T-shirts and pajamas printed with whimsical animal humor. There is also a continued push to spread Style West’s global presence. Recently, David traveled to Moscow, Copenhagen, and London, where he presented to department stores and boutiques.

Though he spends a lot of time traveling, David says that when he lands at LAX and drives up the Pacific Coast Highway, he gets a huge smile on his face around Point Mugu. “There’s just something about Ventura County that I’ve always loved,” he says.

10-01-2010

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