Today we meet a first-generation Croatian in Canada who recently launched a Croatian-inspired athleisure wear range for women.
CRO WEAR designs and sells anything from leggings, shorts, sports bras, tanks, scrunchies, socks, and bracelets. We find out from CEO and founder Drina Petrina (29) more about the business, growing up as a Croatian in Canada and more.
Hi Drina, can you tell us about your Croatian heritage.
I was born and live in Toronto, Canada. My parents were both born in Croatia near the Karlovac region close to Ozalj.
Was Croatian culture a big influence on you growing up?
The Croatian culture was a big influence on me growing up as my parents had instilled in us (my siblings and I) a great love and appreciation for our Croatian heritage and homeland from when we were young. I am very proud of my Croatian heritage. There is a large community of Croatians here in Mississauga. I went to Croatian Saturday school, and I am part of the Croatian Catholic Parish here.
What is the Croatian community like in Toronto?
They are very supportive of one another and are very proud of their Croatian heritage. We are very lucky to have a few Croatian churches and parks where we come together and have huge celebrations, especially for Euro Cup and World Cup and other major sporting tournaments, along with the Croatian religious and national holidays.
Do you visit Croatia often?
I try to visit Croatia every other summer for a month or two. The last time I was in Croatia was in 2019 for 3 months and I stayed in Zagreb. Can’t wait to be back!
What are your favourite places to visit in Croatia?
I love visiting the coast, swimming in the sea and going to the nice restaurants. There are so many beautiful places in Croatia I have been to, so it’s hard to choose a favourite but I often go to Split, Zagreb and Karlovac. Dubrovnik is also such a special place I have visited once.
When did you launch CRO WEAR and what was the inspiration?
I started CRO WEAR in the summer of 2019. I launched in Feb 2020 just before the global pandemic.
The idea of CRO WEAR came a few months after World Cup 2018 when Croatia went to the finals for the first time in history! Soon after I came up with the design of the best selling, one of a kind “Cro leggings” in the navy colour with red and white checkered sides.
I loved watching the soccer tournaments with family and friends but always had a hard time finding what to wear. I couldn’t find anything really fitted or flattering and of high quality. My mom would often make me my own clothes.
I wanted to show my Croatian pride but also look good. I wanted to create a clothing line that women could wear to sporting events to cheer on Croatia that look and feel good.
That’s when I decided to design my own clothes, and share it with everyone. I wanted to make it easily accessible to buy online from anywhere around the world.
I really pride myself on creating designs that are not available to the market. Having original and flattering designs of high quality that women can wear everyday, not just during a soccer/football game. I put comfort and design in mind when creating my pieces. I’ve put my heart and soul into this collection and love every single piece.
It is a long process from creating the design to the finished product, sometimes it can take up to a year – so I make sure I only put out the best for my customers.
Where do you mainly sell to and how has the reaction been so far from customers?
I predominantly sell to the Croatian diaspora residing in North America and Australia. The reaction has been overwhelming, I am so blown away by all the positive feedback I’ve received since launching last year. I’m so happy my customers love the products as much as I do. So grateful for all the love and support from Croatians all around the world for supporting my new brand in such a short amount of time.
My customers are very satisfied with the quality of the products and how comfortable they are. This is so important for me. They will often send me photos or post on social media, wearing my clothing.
The designs are very unique and not over the top so they can proudly wear them regularly, game on or not. You can wear it while working out, going for a walk or lounging around at home. Is it a casual but bold look you don’t have to wait for a major tournament to wear.
Do you ship abroad and how can people find CRO WEAR?
Yes we ship worldwide and you can easily shop online and place your order within a few minutes. Most people have found me from social media. I am also very accessible to answer any questions over email or Instagram DM.
What are the most popular products you sell?
The navy ‘Checkered Cro Leggings’ are by far the most popular product and has been restocked numerous times, which is available in 14 different sizes, followed by the Cro Trackies and the new EuroCup Check Tank.
What are your plans for the future with CRO WEAR?
I plan to grow the brand and introduce new products consistently that people love. I would like to include new designs and colours for women that are more subtle but still have the Croatian inspiration behind it.
I am always aiming to make our products even better, offering more sizing and listening to customer feedback. I have many requests to start a mens line and a kids line so that is something I would love to have in the future.
I will continue to launch new quality pieces that are bold, comfortable, fashionable and one of a kind. I also plan to have a bigger presence in the communities in Croatia and establish new partnerships and collaborations, especially within the sports sector. I would also love to thank everyone for their ongoing support during this past year especially during such uncertain times.
Euro 2020 is currently going on, what do you have planned?
I was supposed to be watching a few Croatia games in the stadiums in Europe however due to Covid, the trip was cancelled unfortunately. I plan to celebrate Euros with friends and family here in Mississauga.