The Loves and Style of Ashley Cline
The Founder, Equestrian Stylist, opens up with LA POLO about her equine style, love and inspiration.
Ashly Cline believes that style does not just exist in fashion, but is a matter of presentation and poise. For 15 years, Cline has been riding in the national Hunter/Jumper show circuit; along with it, she combines her five years of knowledge of the retail and fashion industry. From her experience from Milan, Paris and London, Cline works at managing fashion with an equestrian twist. Excerpts from a tete-a-tete:
After 15 years in equine sports, what inspired you to get into the lifestyle business?
I went to school for fashion merchandising at Florida State University, and I still remember on my exit interview from my major, one of my professors told me: “Ashley, I see you starting a business as an Equestrian Stylist. Just think about that.” I thought it was funny at the time, considering I was heading into corporate retail environment. When the economy took a dive, I realized I needed to put my passion into practice and create my own job. I went back to school for a working MBA program at Nova South-eastern University for Entrepreneurship and it was just as the time social media was starting to boom in 2010. Upon graduation in 2012, I was ready to start my lifestyle business. When I started searching for domain names, I remembered what my professor, Mr Mac, said to me and EquestrianStylist.com was born. I’ve always loved equestrian style. I went to a school that required us to wear uniforms from Pre-K through high school, so I still remember the weekends were really where I could “get creative” with my equestrian horse show apparel. It was classic, elegant and timeless. When I got older, I started realizing that riding boots come into season every fall in runway trends, so I was looking to connect mainstream fashion to traditional equestrian sports and vice-versa. It’s been a fun journey experiencing different looks from a fan perspective and a rider perspective. Every discipline is so unique, and I love sharing the creative inspiration from all angles within the equestrian style.
How would you describe the amalgamation of equus and lifestyle?
I think equestrian sports dictates style. The equestrian lifestyle has a rich history with polo being the “sport of kings” and the romanticism in steeplechase and hunt scene photos, it’s really a combination of both history and style…. Fashion and decor tend to repeat, so we are always going back to the roots with classic equestrian trends. Another interesting opinion I have is that horses sell. Women are a majority of buyers, and most women have a special bond with a horse, or this romantic inspiration when they see a horse. If you style a model and a horse for the cover of a magazine, I guarantee it will sell over a magazine cover that’s just a close-up face of a model. There’s something about the beauty and the majestic presence of a horse that grabs us all.
If you were to design a house, what essentials would there be, especially in the equestrian context?
Designing a home really comes from learning about the owner. Equestrian essentials and equestrian style should reflect the owner’s passion and location of the home. Do they like a traditional dark-wood and hunt-scene Ralph Lauren type-style? Or, is the home situated on the coast with modern accents? For something like a modern home, I’d go with big-picture horse portraits or detail shots like a simple eye of a horse as the focal point for a wall, for instance. Horse bit and horse shoe shadowboxes always make a great touch to an art wall. We also love showcasing any prized trophies or ribbons if the owner is active in equestrian sports.
How would you describe equine fashion?
Classic, elegant and chic.
You studied fashion along with being an equine athlete. How did the two combine?
I’ve always loved classic fashion so I went to school for merchandising. I ended up studying in Milan, Paris and London one summer with the retail program at Florida State University. We were taken to fashion design houses for field trips, for Fashion Shows of renowned designers, visited museums while we were there, and that inspired me. I remember trying to find trends for the show ring like different coloured shirts or bracelets to wear underneath my hunt coat. I showed competitively at the Winter Equestrian Festival each year and we would have the latest vendors from all parts of the world to display their accessories, clothing, and art — I always loved finding the things that “no one would have” so I could set myself apart.
What’s the perfect outfit for a horse racing day?
The perfect outfit depends on the race, location and time of year. If we’re talking about the Kentucky Derby, I say dress your best from head to toe, and remember that the hat is the most important piece! Styles and trends vary from time of year, so depending on the climate this will really dictate the style. Felt-hats are perfect for Fall and Winter while straw and Sinamay do best in Summer and Spring. One of my favourite Milliners is Christine A. Moore. She does a fabulous job of styling the perfect hat to match the outfit.
In equine fashion, hats play an important role. What do you have to say about it? How to imbibe classic pieces in the wardrobe?
Hats are a huge part of equestrian style! If you’re riding, helmets take the place of a hat. But, as you see, we do see helmet-style trends in hats on the runways, too. Depending on the time of year, select a hat that fits your face and your style if you’re going to a polo match or a horserace; you might like something to keep you covered from the sun and fashionable, or if you’d like to dress-up a bit more, do a posh fascinator!
If we take away your equine love from you, what would be the next thing that you would do?
That would never happen! I will always have horses in my life… But, I do like to spend time at the beach. I grew up in Florida, so there’s something about the ocean that also just feels a part of my soul.
How do you determine a client’s personal style?
Seeing how they live in their environment, what colours they tend to gravitate towards, and the types of clothing they like to wear really dictate their personal style.
How can one be a classic in a trending world?
The world is full of trends. The best pieces are those that will last the longest. Look for quality. If you think something’s a “fad”, it is. Stay true to yourself and stick to what makes you unique.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
Right now, I am a mother of one-year-old twins, so I’m currently chasing them around quite a bit. Normally I ride in the mornings or answer e-mails, plan out the week on Mondays and stay creative as much as I can in the middle of juggling the babies! It’s definitely a change of pace from where I was a year or so ago, but I’m so happy I get to experience motherhood. It’s the best feeling in the world!
When it comes to equine life, the ruling colours are mostly the shades of brown, black and grey. How do you like to use colour?
As a Florida girl, I’ve grown up with colour in my life. I love wearing Lilly Pulitzer and bright colours to polo matches in Palm Beach, it’s a classic! As much as equestrian style tends to be known for rich darker colours in the Fall, there are so many ways to incorporate whites and brights. Hermes does a fabulous job of putting together beautiful bold colours in their Equestrian scarfs. There’s something so beautiful about seeing horses mixed with bright oranges, greens, reds, and blues! Also, remember the colours of ribbons… competition ribbons can bring in bright colour palettes for equestrian style.
Your style icon: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Favourite brand: I like both Hermes - classic and traditional, and Lilly Pulitzer - fun and full of colour.
Your styling technique: If I’m styling myself, I go with the flow. If I’m inspired by a trend, I may step out of the box a bit, but usually I stay pretty classic and go for what fits the best, first.
Your muse: Ralph Lauren is a huge inspiration.
Trademark accessory: A diamond bracelet.
Your style in three words: Classic, Chic, Elegant
One no-fail styling trick: A side French braid into a pony tail - if you’re having a bad hair day, it pulls your hair together and makes you look like you’ve really styled it up!
“The Horse is one of the most powerful creatures God has created. Horses fuel passion. Creativity is driven through the artistic roots of riding. Integrity comes from the trust that has been built upon through my love of horses. Innovation is powered by long trail rides with the Big idea. Dedication is what drives me to share.” --Ashley Cline