Where Champions Get Dressed: One-on-One with Paula Diuri
Paula Diuri is a vivacious and hard-working equine fashion designer who has become a living legend in the horse show industry. Paula’s Place, based in Merced, California, has outfitted countless AQHA and APHA World and Congress Champions over the past 30 years. Her extremely loyal clients will tell you that it is nothing short of a privilege to wear a “Paula.”
Her one-of-a-kind outfits capture the judge’s attention as well as embody the rider’s personality. Paula is gifted, not only with elevated design and finish but also in her ability to capture her client’s desires in an outfit. Whether there are certain colors, patterns, or themes that the rider loves, Paula can create an outfit that will make its owner say, “Wow! That is so me!”
Sure, you can look for her signature “P” on fellow exhibitor’s collars to see who is wearing a Paula. But, to the trained eye, it’s fairly easy to tell why top exhibitors come to Paula year after year for their winning look. Several of her clients were more than happy to share why exactly they love working with and wearing, a Paula.
AQHA World Champion Kirsten Thomsen has worn Paula’s Place for years, and most notably, as she performed her victory lap last November at the AQHA World Show in Amateur Western Riding (pictured right).
“Paula is amazing,” Thomsen told us. “The clothes she and her team design and put together are out of this world. She really captures your personality and style in everything she makes. She’s not afraid to go out of the box while still making it look respectable and well put together. Not to mention the quality of her show clothing is the best I have ever seen. I’m fortunate enough to only live a couple hours away from her, so my mom and I will drive down to talk and brainstorm with her. I can’t say enough good things about Paula and her show clothes.”
Fellow World Champions and sisters, Kathy Tobin and Susie Johns, also shared accolades for Paula and the beautiful outfits she has created for them over the years.
“I love Paula’s unique creativity,” Kathy told us. “She can design a very individual pattern using a theme that has meaning in your life. For example, she designed a jacket with a stylized carousel horse and one with Foo Dogs, which both have meaning in my life,” Kathy shared.
Kathy’s sister, Susie (pictured left), expressed how Paula designs around her desires. “Paula knows I like comfortable and fun outfits. Showing is all about having fun and when I put on an outfit, I want to feel happy in it. I believe when you feel good about yourself, it helps you feel confident when you step into the show pen. We try to come up with a theme each year and work around that which is fun.”
Wearing Paula’s Place can be a family affair, with the entire Neiberger family donning her designs. The matriarch of the family, Lisa Neiberger, shared why. “Paula is amazing. She has made show clothes for my daughters and me for years. She listens to what you want every time and is so creative.”
What makes Paula’s Place stand out even more from the rest is her ability to put the customer first. AQHA Honor Roll Champion, Brooke Victoria Ingstad (pictured right), shared her experience with Paula, “I love Paula’s Place because Paula customizes each outfit specifically for the individual who will be wearing it. She listens to your vision for the design and then continues to expand on your own personal ideas with her own creative twist. Aside from being very gifted in designing the outfit, she also provides exceptional customer service and is very personable to work with. I adore my new Paula’s outfits and love wearing them when I compete.”
Multiple AQHA World Champion, Joetta (Meredith) Bell, sang countless praises about Paula and the countless masterpieces she created for her throughout her youth an amateur career. “Paula is a wonderful person and so creative. She always knew exactly what I was thinking when I would call her and tell her what I was wanting her to design. She’s truly a legend in the horse show clothing industry. She and Benny knew so much about so many disciplines. I always appreciated their opinions on my performances. Paula’s clothes always gave me a special edge because they’re so eye-catching, unique, and gave me extra confidence while showing.”
Her team also agrees that Paula is top notch to work with. Longtime assistant, Joy Miller stated, “For over 30 years, it has been my pleasure to work with Paula. She has always exhibited an amazing work ethic, incredible self-discipline, and an enormous sense of personal responsibility. She has been my client, my mentor, and my friend. It has been my privilege to be associated with her.”
GoHorseShow sat down with Paula to learn more about her journey to success and where she finds her inspiration to create countless jaw-dropping looks.
Q: What was your background before you began Paula’s Place?
A: I trained all-around horses with my partner, Benny Guitron. That experience helped me understand the overall importance of confidence in the show pen.
Q: Over the past 30 years, how many outfits do you think have you made?
A: Wow, I have no idea. I’m sure it is in the thousands!
Q: Can you please explain the process of designing a custom outfit and how it works from start to finish.
A: We prefer a personal meeting with each client, if possible, to get to know them as much as possible. We start with measurements and a custom pattern. We strive to design an outfit to fit their individual body style and their personality and to fulfill the ultimate wish of fabulousness for each client.
Q: Many of Paula’s clients believe that your “secret sauce” is your ability to build an outfit to suit a certain person’s style. How do you do that? Are there certain things you ask to discover their style?
A: First of all, I find out their likes and dislikes. The person wearing the outfit has to love it as much or more than we do. Tina, our head of designs, excels in creativity. She loves “no boundaries” and accepts all challenges.
Q: What do you believe makes your designs different and why they are continually worn by top exhibitors?
A: I think the key is our unique and extreme designs. Also, working with people who are confident enough to be different.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
A: Anything that is unique and interesting – be it a color combination or design elements.
Q: Do you have an all-time favorite outfit? If so, what makes it so memorable?
A: Wow. That’s a tough question to answer. I’ve loved so many of them!
Q: What is your favorite memory of watching one of your client’s show?
A: I would have to say Joetta Meredith in Showmanship at the Youth World. It was the first time one of my clients won wearing their Paula’s Place outfit. She went on to win three years in a row. Another favorite memory was at the Youth World in Western Horsemanship. I looked out in the arena at the lineup of 16 finalists and 15 of the outfits were mine. By the way, the 16th finalist was a male exhibitor.
Q: How do you feel show clothes have evolved over the years?
A: It’s the same as the fashion industry. The wheel is round. It all comes and goes.
Q: How do you make your outfits so timeless?
A: First of all, I don’t consider trends. I look at everything as change and fashion forward. It is important to have a great fit and a design that appeals to most. We have to remember that the riders are showing to a lot of judges with different tastes in fashion. We want them to stand out in a positive way.
Q: What’s the key to your longevity and uniqueness in the show clothing industry?
A: I love the horse show people I’ve worked with through the years. I consider them my friends and family. The uniqueness of each outfit comes from people who give my team and me creative freedom. I have a competitive side of me, which I’m sure came from showing horses, that makes me strive to stay at the front of the industry. My whole team takes pride in setting ourselves apart from the rest of the horse show clothing industry. Making the trainers happy and excited also plays a big part.
Q: Did you ever dream you would become the industry standard for show clothing?
A: No, but it has been a great journey!
Q: Paula, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences with us.
A: You’re very welcome. Thank you!
View the slideshow below of some of Paula’s beautiful designs throughout the years.