As we enter a full gallop toward the Hampton Classic, follow the lead of storied brands and emerging designers who find stable inspiration in all things equestrian.
"Our first customer was a horse,” Hermès vice chairman Simon Xavier Guerrand-Hermès is fond of quipping. His great-great-grandfather began making leather harnesses under the family name in 1837, and today, the Paris-based luxury goods house best known for its coveted Birkin and Kelly bags still does a brisk business in riding accoutrements ranging from custom-designed saddles to goatskin-handled curry combs. Along the way, the elegance of the equestrian world has become a touchstone for style that goes well beyond the stables.
Just as Hermès has built an empire on the sturdy saddle stitch (and scarves originally inspired by jockeys’ racing silks), Gucci found its louche signatures in the tack room. The Italian house’s horsebit loafers debuted in 1953 and have been made newly desirable by creative director Alessandro Michele, who added fur lining. Another one of Michele’s favorite “fake vintage” flourishes is the green-and-red-striped grosgrain webbing that Gucci introduced in the early 1960s and was originally inspired by the strap that secures a horse’s saddle.
Polo Ralph Lauren shearling jacket, $1,698
The American designer most synonymous with equestrian style is Ralph Lauren, who in 1968 decided to align his fledgling menswear line with the sport of kings. “To me, the polo player has elegance and imagination,” says Lauren. “[The sport] embodies sophisticated luxury and timeless style.” Such is the scope and scale of Lauren’s world that it now encompasses the aristocrat and the cowboy, English refinement and Western ease.
Chloé Tess calfskin bag, $1,850
A new generation of designers is also borrowing elements from the horsey set. At Chloé, creative director Natacha Ramsay-Levi made a splash with the stallion-embroidered velvet suit that marked her spring 2018 debut collection for the French house and was a nod to her horse-loving predecessors, Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo. According to Ramsay-Levi, “The fantasy of the horsewoman has always been a key Chloé code for me—that classicism we associate with the beautiful leathers and classical colors.”
For a more subtle interpretation of equestrian élan, look to Khaite (pronounced “kate”), an emerging label best known for its cult denim and luscious cashmere. New York designer Catherine Holstein pairs assured tailoring with sublime fabrics, and her pre-fall Khaite collection is full of richly mottled tweeds that offer fresh versions of the hacking jacket.
The Cynthia dress, $1,380, from Khaite’s pre-fall 2018 collection
As for finishing touches, forgo the glammed-up saddle bag in favor of handcrafted leather sandals from Mount Kisco-based Katharine Page, a veteran hunter-jumper rider. Says chief creative officer Mark von Holstein, “Katharine was inspired by the form and function of her horse’s show bridle—handmade from the finest materials, to last a lifetime.”