Steeped in history and tradition, Kroop’s is no novice when it comes to being in the winner’s circle—they pride themselves on been there more than any other brand in history.
Originally founded as Kroop's Goggles, Kroop’s has a long-standing history in the equine industry. Founder, Israel Kroop patented the iconic jockey boot in the 1930s, jockey goggles in 1947, the first skydiving goggles in the 1950s. Now, in 2013, Kroop’s is making the leap into the world of fashion with Kroop’s Eyewear—a line featuring equestrian lifestyle inspired sunglasses, leather cases and accessories.
Andrew Tremblay, president and chief executive officer of Kroop’s, took some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions about the history of Kroop’s, what impact and role the company has played in the racing industry through the years, and what Kroop’s is moving toward in the fashion industry.
Victoria Garofalo: I understand you are the first person outside the Kroop's family to head the company, what made you decide to make your offer and become immersed in the world of Kroop's?
Andrew Tremblay: I was looking for something to buy, something new, something different. I love brands and creating things. More importantly, I love the idea of a brand people can latch onto, buy the product and trust it. I looked for a long time to find the right brand. For me, it was about finding a brand with a lot of history and a lot of heritage that I could do something with. I saw the potential of what they had been and what they had done in the past and saw the potential to take the brand in a new direction. There was more to it than jockey goggles. That was their main platform.
Garofalo: What do you think Kroop's Racing means to the horse racing world?
Tremblay: It’s hard to answer that because what we’re trying to do now is create more of a lifestyle product — one that speaks to people that love horse racing. The bigger picture is that we’re creating this for all equestrian lovers. We’re pretty small, but we have such a big reach. The jockey goggle has impacted the sport of horse racing more than anyone could imagine. The bigger thing is that it has lasted this long. Every jockey wears the style we created, even if they don’t wear our brand. It is a testament to how great the goggle was when Mr. Kroop created it. Our eyewear line is for all types of equine lifestyles — polo, dressage, jumping, etc. We’re not just targeting the people who like horses, but people who like to watch the sport of horse racing as well.
Kroop's Handcrafted Eyewear
Garofalo: Since the Kroop's name is most well recognized with jockey goggles, what does it take to make a pair of your iconic jockey goggles?
Tremblay: Essentially, it is a pretty-involved 15-step process. We created a lot of the jockey goggles based on the boot making techniques because we were originally boot makers. When we started creating the goggles, it was based on the supplies and tools we already had.
Garofalo: I love the new sunglasses line and how you’ve incorporated the horseshoe and other equestrian details into each pair. Could you please explain what the motivation behind adding that small but powerful addition was?
Tremblay: We spent a long time designing and thinking about these and going back and forth; and a lot of things ‘hit the cutting room floor.’ We looked for a lot of elements that could speak to people who love horses and horse racing, but we didn’t want to make the sunglasses too ‘themey.’ We didn’t want to over do it. We wanted to make the detailing subtle, fashionable and of excellent quality, but also wanted the styling cues from the equestrian world in there.
The horseshoe is one of the most iconic symbols for luck in the equestrian world and all over the world really. We wanted the addition of the horseshoe detailing on each pair of glasses to be something that the person wearing the glasses knows is there. What the person feels like when they are wearing our sunglasses and what appeals to them is what is most important to us.
We have several diamond patterns that are used throughout the line because of the prevalence of the diamond pattern in horse racing, especially in racing silks.
We are also using real leather to make our glasses cases. Pretty much all tack, saddles and riding boots are real leather — that’s an element that needed to be included. And, we get to show off that we understand leatherworking, due to our history and heritage.
Garofalo: Being a history nerd, myself, I loved reading how you all were inspired to create the great cases for the sunglasses. Can you tell me about how that came to be?
Tremblay: I was at the Kroop’s boot factory in the 100-year-old attic (where no one ever goes) with Randy Kroop. I was digging through boxes and came across a box of old leatherworking dies (tools used to cut leather), pulled them out and they were in perfect condition. I had no idea that Kroop’s used to make their own dies from the 1930s through the 1970s, but once we found them it made sense to use these to make our leather sunglasses cases.
Garofalo: How did you become a fan of horse racing?
Tremblay: My sister is very much into horses, and now I like going to the races, too. I watch racing now all the time, and I like to go to the big racing events. The events are especially fun because I have gotten to meet a lot of the jockeys and forge relationships with them because they use our goggles. It is a very interesting sport where you have all these different facets — people who train the horses; the horses themselves, these living creatures who you are ultimately relying on; the jockeys, of course; and so much more. There are so many different elements playing together and I like that about horse racing.
Garofalo: What is your favorite race and track to attend?
Tremblay: I stick with the hometown and say Pimlico, I like going to the Preakness because it’s our hometown event.
Kroop’s Eyewear’s new sunglasses line is now available for purchase at kroopseyewear.com.