It has been almost two years exactly since I wrote a review on Equus Couture and the exquisite browband I purchased from owner Tiffany Donnelly. It is outlandish that it took two years for me to order something else from this company, since my love of all things old is satiated by their unique offerings (if only I was made of money!). I am so happy to have added a very unique stock tie to my show attire for 2017, and I cannot wait to debut it at my first show in March. If you haven’t seen anything from Equus Couture before, you are missing out. Even if the old-world glamour of the products is not your style (but how could it not be?), each product is thoughtfully designed and made make truly special gifts. I am so pleased to bring you this Company Spotlight. Enjoy our interview of Tiffany Donnelly and check out the beautiful products from Equus Couture (and maybe buy something as well)!
Tell us a little bit about Equus Couture and its beginning.
I originally launched Equus Couture in 2008 on a very small scale. I just wanted to create something beautiful for my own personal horse. So, that is what I did; selling browbands here and there, but not really marketing the company. In 2010-2011, I went through a series of major life changes and stopped the business entirely. In November of 2013, I launched my Equus Couture Facebook page and started promoting the business once again in January of 2014. My first “real” event was my booth at the Ohio Equine Affaire in April of 2014, I then launched a new, fresh website the summer of 2014. And, it just sort of took off from there!
I don’t look at other equestrian businesses for inspiration, I take most of my inspiration from the fashion industry and fine art. A visit to an art museum or scrolling through my Instagram feed where I’m following top fashion designers across the world are equally as inspirational for me. My goal is to get the equestrian community outside of the box. I’m taking a traditional product that the equestrian community is familiar with and has known for years and giving it a new twist. Expanding minds and bringing art to the stable.
What is your background? What was your first product?
My background is in the arts. I was an art major in college. I’ve had horses in my life since I was eleven years old. I always wanted to figure out a way to combine my love for horses with my love of art. I never was sure how to do that until I started Equus Couture. For me, this is the perfect marriage.
Browbands were my first product in 2008 and it wasn’t until 2014 that I expanded beyond that. It definitely started as a hobby, as I was just trying to make something beautiful for my own horse, but then people started seeing the browbands and wanting them, so I began to sell a few here and there. It wasn’t until 2014 that I got really serious about making the business thrive as more than just a hobby.
What makes Equus Couture different than other companies on the market?
There are oodles of browband companies out there in the equestrian world. What makes our browbands and all of our products unique is our aesthetic and use of vintage pieces. No one else is working with color, design, layout, and texture the way that we are in our pieces. We were the first company on the market to utilize the character and beauty of vintage components on tack for horses. We have expanded that notion to our stock ties, incorporating vintage textiles.
My motto has always been with the company: If I wouldn’t buy it, we don’t sell it. I am constantly looking for something outside the traditional equestrian box for my personal horse – saddle pads, polo shirts, competition shirts, browbands, breeches, etc. So my goal is to create the traditional items in a way that I’m not finding them on the market as it is today.
Where do you see the Equus Couture brand in 5 years?
I want Equus Couture to be the premier brand in the equine industry when people think of couture for their horses and themselves in the show ring. To me, Equus Couture is not just a brand, but a lifestyle.
On a more practical note, my pipe dream is a vintage Airstream that I can wallpaper on the inside and hang chandeliers to create my little traveling shop!
Is Equus Couture your day job, if not, what else do you do?
Yes! Equus Couture is my full time job. In August of 2015, I left my day job as the Coordinator of Communications in the marketing department at a University to pursue Equus Couture full time and I haven’t regretted it for a moment!
Describe a typical day running Equus Couture. What are some of your challenges? What parts do you love most?
I spend a lot of my time traveling to my team of leather crafters, seamstresses, and pattern-makers. I am skilled at design and creative thoughts, but have surrounded myself with a team of experts in the fields that are not necessarily my expertise. A typical day is full of shopping for vintage components; both metals and textiles, traveling to my team, and designing. During the winter when my travel schedule slows down, I spend a lot of time working on new products to roll out in the coming year and shopping for new delicious vintage finds.
I have also started incorporating some “soul time” for myself each morning over coffee. Before I start working, I’m spending some time on nourishing my creative soul. Currently, I”m reading the Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte. It is incredible!
The challenge is and will probably always be for me the business end of a business! I’m gifted at creating and ideas….but the logistics of business are harder for me.
Do you design and create every product yourself? What is your design process?
Every product I sell is designed exclusively by me. I touched on this above but it’s definitely pertinent here: I am skilled at design and the creative process, but have surrounded myself with a team of experts in the fields that are not necessarily my expertise. I’m an idea girl, so I design, which is my forte, and then my skilled artisans create the products based on my designs.
Especially this time of year, many days are spent with my desk littered in crystals and metals just designing for the upcoming show season.
Do you have any other products that you would like to add to the Equus Couture line?
Oh my – I have tons of products I want to add to my line, a few of which will be unveiled this show season! I have a huge list, so I’m slowly ticking them off. Stay tuned because big things are happening this year!
Which product is your personal favorite?
My business began with the browband. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than seeing one of my browbands walking towards me on a beautiful horse. That truly makes my day. While it is the heart of my business, and definitely one of my favorites, I’m having an absolute blast designing my stock ties! I have always loved fashion, so to be designing something in textile form is absolutely thrilling to me!
What is your equine story?
When I was 10 the horse bug hit me. I have no idea how it happened, but I remember pining for a horse. My parents knew NOTHING about horses, but there was so much pleading from me, my dad started looking into it. I began to fervently pray for a horse, and very long story short, my dad’s uncle ended up giving us our first horse, a Davenport Arabian. She was 23 and a total babysitter. I was 11 when we got Confection. I haven’t had a day since then, and I’m 38 now, that horses haven’t been a part of my life in some capacity or another.
I have had the honor to have so many beloved equines in my life through the years. I’ll never forget winning my first blue ribbon on Dumar’s Benatar, who I was madly in love with, a Morgan gelding that my coach owned and let me ride as a teenager. And there is the year I got to ride Bahia, a World Grand Champion Saddlebred mare that was so light yet the most powerful horse I’ve ever ridden…I felt like I was on a locomotive and it was exhilarating! My first dressage mount was also a Saddlebred so I felt comfortable to learn a new discipline as an adult on a breed with which I was familiar. My first Friesian came into my life in 2006 and she was the light of my world. I have yearned for another Friesian, as I fell in love with their intelligence, character, and loyalty. In June 2016, I acquired my second Friesian and he will be my dressage mount for 2017. He is my best friend and partner. That is such a short list of so many horses that have blessed me through the years! One thing I try to never forget is the initial romance that drew me to the horse. In the midst of competing and schooling – I try to always remember that magic. And truly that is part of what inspires my business on a daily basis.
Who is the Equus Couture girl? Describe your target market.
The experience I see myself giving my clients is one of confidence, to go boldly into the schooling ring or show ring with the confidence that a beautiful product can give. In allowing people to experience art in everyday life at the stable, I feel Equus Couture products give that experience as well. I’m giving character to an old staple item, helping people to think of it in a new way. That said, the Equus Couture girl is fashion-forward. She appreciates a complex yet simple aesthetic. Someone not afraid to step outside the box of the “normal” equine product and take a chance on a new design creation.
If you are interested in learning more about Equus Couture or purchasing a special gift for yourself (or someone else) make sure to visit their website here. Follow Equus Couture on Facebook and Instagram to keep an eye out for new products, designs and sales!