“Vests are very popular right now,” Anna Omodeo said. “They are light, easy to combine with different horses, and ideal for long summer shows." Photo © Lisa T. Jones

The Wow Factor: Top Show Clothing Designers Show off their High-End Designs

Each designer in the horse show industry possesses their own set of amazing creative skills. These skills give them the capability of putting together beautiful outfits that will catch the judge’s eye and give their clients that extra boost of confidence they need when they enter the show pen.

Several designers including, La Collezione di Anna, Dardar8 Designs, On Pattern Designs, Vilandre’ Designer, Trudy’s Black Label and Lisa Nelle Show Couture gave GoHorseShow an inside look into how they create their designs, and currents trends they are seeing in the fashion world.

Being a top-end designer in high demand is no easy task, but these talented designers continue to bring phenomenal outfits to the industry every season.

High-End Trends

High-quality clothing is something every customer hopes to find when shopping for their next outfit. Darlene Lowe-Strathdee of Dardar8 Designs believes customers want to buy an outfit they can turn around and sell after a few years of use for a great price.

“I see a trend going away from mass produced clothing that loses value right away,” she said. “People now realize that a timeless, elegant, high-quality piece of show clothing holds its value. It is similar to how a high-end saddle has great resale. I have customers who buy a custom piece from me, wear it for a season or two, then sell it and they get such a good price from their used Dardar8 piece (pictured right) that they can order a new one. I totally understand how important a decision is to them; they prepare all year for the big shows.”

Vests and bolero sets are being seen in the show pen more and more within the last few years. Anna Omodeo, of La Collezione di Anna, thinks vests or full-length tops can fulfill current trends if they suit the client and have high-end craftsmanship.

“Vests are very popular right now,” she said. “They are light, easy to combine with different horses, and ideal for long summer shows. Also, the bolero set with horsemanship top is a versatile choice that is easy to use. No matter if it has a geometrical design or a romantic one with rounded shapes, I always suggest to use different tones and give a 3D effect to an outfit.”

Designers do more than look at social media or publications to keep up with current fashion trends. Sonia Vilandré, of Vilandré Designer (her design pictured left), and Beckie Peskin of On Pattern Designs, use fashion sources outside of the equine industry for ideas to create a new outfit.

“I follow the ‘Haute couture and the fashion industry outside of the horse show world,” Vilandré said. “This helps me to know upcoming trends. I have also had the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest French designers. Having learned from them, I have European influences.”

“I really use the runway fashion to see the latest in accessories and use that to keep things fresh,” Peskin said. “I don’t want all of my pieces to look super alike and my own style can vary a lot, so I try to allow myself to vary in what I make.”

What is it that makes an outfit have the “wow factor”? These designers gave a few different answers, but every one of them mentioned how important correct fitting and personality was to a piece.

“For me, it is very important to make sure my pattern is the absolute perfect fit,” Vilandré said. “It has to fit the personality of the team while being unique and making you want to see it up close.”

“It can be so many different things that give a design that factor, but the fit is the most important,” Peskin said. “For me, it’s just really learning about the rider and the horse; their likes/dislikes, style, personality, things they want to show off/hide, etc.”

“The outfit is ‘wow’ if when you think about it, you also think about the person who is wearing it,” Omodeo said (her design pictured right). “That means the outfit is telling a lot about its owner.”

“Make sure the design is flattering on your figure,” Lowe-Strathdee said. “Even a low-priced, sale ‘high end’ item won’t make you happy if it makes you feel self-conscious about some aspect of your figure or if it fits you poorly.”

Designers Discuss New Designs

Three designers picked a current design they have created and discussed their inspiration and essentials of putting the outfits together.

“This piece is a thick and stretchy black fabric. The trims are all lamb leather. Everything is made with crystals and jewels and is hand sewn. All elements are symmetrical and balanced with this design,” says  Sonia Vilandré of Vilandré Designer (pictured left). For this vest, it all started with a show pad my client had. She wanted a vest that would perfectly match with it, so I created this piece.”

Darlene Lowe of Dardar8 Designs states, “The jacket was a custom design, so the client chose that design of mine, then we discussed color schemes. Finally, she settled on that color combo as it is timeless, yet very visually ‘showy’. That custom client left it to me to embellish as I thought best (pictured right). I am always adding little details or extra jewels. My design process is pretty simple, really just rough sketch, then I start actually constructing and build on that as I go along. I have to love it before I will say something is ‘finished’. Some of these jackets have two weeks of labor, some have $1000 to $2000 in Swarovski crystal on them.”

The fashionista known for the ultimate “Wow Factor” jackets and vests is Anna Omodeo of La Collezione di Anna. “The outfit I’m presenting is a vest for a client of mine that is also a dear friend, Cathrin Gutmann (pictured left). We have been working together for years now. This outfit comes from Cathrin’s idea to have a total dark look that matches both of her show horses (a blue roan and a dark brown). She asked me for a design with opaque tones and geometrical lines that mirror her gritty, but elegant personality. I know that she is a strong lady who wants to be recognizable, but at the same time wants to have a cured and never out of tone image. This is where I start to prepare sketches.”

Omodeo continues,”In those days, I happened to be at the movie theater watching the last Star Wars movie and I was fascinated by the dark tones of black and brown and by the geometrical patterns of some foes. After a couple of days, without even realizing it, my brain was transforming those tones in opaque and deep densities. While I was sketching, I got some inspiration from the music of rock/metal bands from the 90’s that Cathrin and I both like. I was satisfied with three of the sketches and the one that you can see here is the one that she has chosen. After this comes the execution part, where step by step the outfit is crafted, I use Facebook Messenger to keep in touch with the clients and share pictures of the work in progress. We discuss details and the elements that determine the final effect. After a lot of days of work comes the finished product. As every designer, I love all of my creations, and I hope to soon see Cathrin wearing this vest. I already know for sure that she will have the “wow” look!”

What Sets Them Apart from the Rest

GoHorseShow asked a few designers what sets them apart from the rest of the competition.

“Working with passion, getting constant feedback from the customer in order to craft the perfect arena look, creating products of high quality are the main ingredients of the way I work,” Omodeo told us (her design pictured left). “I like working on custom projects, I like to get to know my customers and follow them in the decision process. I suggest them a design that gives a real image of themselves, a design that tells a story, not one that just follows the latest trend. When you wear something that makes you feel at ease and improves your figure, for sure you will be more self-confident, your performance will look smooth, the judge will notice confidence leading to a positive result.”

Sonia Vilandre’ adds, “As a graduate of Haute couture fashion design school, a well-made pattern is very important. A fabulous pattern defines the curves of the body, or sometimes, can create more appealing lines on some unloved parts of the body. Details are very important in my creations. All crystals and stones are hand stitched. My fabrics are all top of the line, and I personally use leather lamb for the trims. High-quality materials are one of the most important things I learned from my teachers (pictured right). Making the deadline, delivering, and after-sales service is also a major factor in how I run my business.”

“Our work ethic definitely sets us apart from other designers,” says Trudy Futo of Trudy’s Black Label (pictured left). “We eat, breath and sleep this business. We are always looking for the latest design trends, colors, and ideas. You will not usually see us at the horse shows because we are home in our studios designing and creating 24/7.”

Lisa Nelle Show Couture believes that every woman should have the opportunity to shine with confidence regardless of body type or budget. “With this in mind, I’ve created a comprehensive line with something for everyone. We are proud to offer sizes XXS through 5X — an extensive range not found elsewhere in show apparel. We’ve had a lot of customers tell us how grateful they are for carrying their size,” Nelle states (design pictured right). We’ve also carefully drafted our patterns to ensure a perfect and flattering fit for every body type. Pricing starts around $200 for the budget conscious, to high-end styles covered in crystals at the $2-3K price point. My team and I work passionately for all of our customers, so each can feel beautiful sparkling in their Lisa Nelle.”

View a slideshow of more “Wow Factor” designs from some of the fashion gurus in the industry:

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