Kastel Denmark’s Charlotte Jorst grows her empire and dreams of the Olympics
“Kastel” is the Danish word for citadel, and Denmark-native-turned-Nevadan Charlotte Jorst has built her own fortress. Profiled in the Feb. 15, 2007 edition of the Reno News & Review, Jorst and her husband, Henrik, founded local-gone-global Skagen Designs, whose stylish wristwatches, jewelry and accessories were a worldwide success. Skagen Stables, the couple’s comforting retreat, was home to the stately Dutch Warmblood horses that helped Charlotte hone her equestrian skills and win high-profile dressage events. (Dressage is a highly-skilled form of riding performed in exhibition and competition.) In 2012, after selling Skagen Designs to Fossil, the Jorsts naturally pondered their next move. Kastel Denmark, Charlotte’s chic, sun-blocking activewear for women, is her second act.
“We wanted to sell [Skagen] before we turned 50, so that we could do something else,” explained Jorst, wearing a Kastel Denmark top, jeans and boots. “When we sold it, I said—in my typical fashion—’I’m going to go to the Olympics. I want to ride full-time.’ I did start to ride, in the blistering sun. I got skin cancer really bad that first year. The doctor said, ’You really shouldn’t be out in the sun.’ I was like, ’I’ve been dreaming of this for 25 years. I’m not going to let my dream squelch just because I have skin cancer. I have to figure something out.’ So I looked for clothing that would allow me to be outside. There was no clothing that was UV-protectant—nothing. If there was, it made you look like a beekeeper.”
Jorst conducted 18 months of in-depth research. Kastel Denmark’s fashions aren’t simply aesthetic—they provide a barrier of 30 SPF ultraviolet protection, in a medium-weight, antibacterial, breathable fabric that’s 88 percent nylon and 12 percent Spandex. As the company developed, conflict only challenged Jorst, whose inclination was to troubleshoot, regroup, repeat.
“I launched it and it was instantly a huge success, sales-wise,” said Jorst. “But fabric can be imprecise, like a half-an-inch off. I started getting quality issues and things that weren’t up-to-standard. Minimum orders were huge, and I ended up with too much stock. Things were too often on sale, and we had to work on getting them to acceptable levels. We’ve put a really good team together, and we can now grow the business.”
While she has an MBA—and hard-earned millions—Jorst is humble and unpretentious with an undeniable magnetism. Fittingly, Kastel Denmark’s logo is a gold crown.
“We have a [slogan], ’Sport the Crown,’ because it’s a symbol of tenacity and integrity,” she said. “We want women to feel strong and empowered and to go after their dreams, the way that I’ve done.”
With retails sales at Dover Saddlery, SmartPak and their own warehouse at 1155 S. Rock Blvd., a cross-section of Kastel consumers are cancer survivors, those seeking prevention and female horseback riders.
“The line is primarily for equestriennes, because I have become a really very good equestrienne,” Jorst said. “I’m now one of the best in the world.”
Skagen Stables became Kastel Denmark, and, today, it’s home to a 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood named Nintendo, who, at 16.2 hands, has potential on an Olympic level. Reflecting on the magnitude of her dream, Jorst laughed.
“It’s been very difficult to take this on at such a competitive level,” she said. “I thought it would be relatively easy to get to the top. But it’s not been easy, and it’s still not. I’ve been on the American team now for five years, but it’s very challenging—and very challenging, physically, to stay in this kind of shape. I have to work on it, constantly. The first dream was to make it to compete in the top 15 in the United States and go to the American Championships. I did that—and made a complete fool out of myself, because I couldn’t remember the pattern I was supposed to ride. I didn’t do as well as I wanted, but I paid my dues. The following year, the U.S. Equestrian Team sent me to Europe. That was incredible, because I competed against people I’ve only read about. I was warming up with the best in the world at Nations Cups in Rotterdam. Then I went to World Cup Finals, competed in Sweden in 2016, and got 10th in the world. This year, I competed in Belgium, and now I’m going to try out for the Olympics.”
On Jan. 8, Jorst headed to Florida—where she won last year—and will do all the Olympic qualifiers on two horses. Her trophies are on display, though she has no intention of resting on her laurels. In preparing for the Olympics, Jorst will be part of a four-person, co-ed team.
“I am typically fifth or sixth in the United States, so I haven’t been in the very, very top,” she said. “We’ll see if that changes this year. To be in the top four is extremely difficult. The United States team has been very strong the past four years, so it’s been difficult to make it. It got bronze at the last Olympics, so it’s third in the world. Women are actually pretty good at riding, because you have to have physical strength, but you can also substitute some of that with feel and empathy for the horses and things like that, that men may not have to the same degree.”
Having that connection and partnership is vital, and young horses don’t become champions overnight.
“It’s very similar to running a business,” Jorst noted. “You have to get the horse, or the people, on your team. You can try to fight them, or you can [collaborate]. I’m very good at getting the horses to like me. They like my energy; they get so excited, and they want to do well. That’s been a big strength: mind-over-matter. Then my horses go in that ring, where other people’s horses may spook or be afraid. I tell them, ’You can do this, just go.’ And the horses just go in and perform for me.”
Family brings balance to the Jorsts’ busy lives. Daughter Camilla, 27, has a master’s degree in social work; and her older sister Christine, 29, is a teacher-turned-realtor who dotes on son, Mattias, 2. Never far from their collective heart is their homeland, and they frequently return to Denmark, where they have a new home, visit family and work with the Warmbloods. The proud grandmother shows off photographs of her grandson and his pony, Pepper.
“We loved becoming grandparents,” she said. “It’s so wonderful to have time and hang out with him. We are strengthening our bonds with Denmark, because I go to Europe every year to compete. Both kids are applying for Danish citizenship. They were born in the U.S. but are thinking of moving there for a bit, so their kids can learn Danish. There are huge competitions all summer, so I can just bring the horses to Denmark.”
Jorst’s newest enterprise is breeding horses. The couple’s Scandia Realty is thriving, and Henrik heads up their classic car business, Cool Classics. Originally, the Jorsts built a building east of Reno for that dealership, but Tesla liked what they saw and rented the building from the Jorsts, who will build a new one, along with opening a dealership in Las Vegas. In the fruition of Kastel Denmark, Jorst feels uplifted and free.
“It’s the same point-of-view as the watches,” she said. “We make it very Scandinavian, beautiful and simple. You have to believe in your own project and what you want out of it. I really feel I have learned to ride. So, if I get to the Olympics, if I don’t, I feel like my goal has been achieved. That’s a great feeling. I go into this Olympic year super content. I’m gonna go, show them how well I ride, and the great horses I have.”