Young designer makes a statement in and out of the ring.
by Kim F. Miller
There’s nothing new about haute couture or mainstream fashions incorporating equestrian motifs. But the next time you see an elegant blazer in the “regular” world that looks remarkably like a hunt coat, it may actually be a hunt coat. That would be the case if it’s a hunt coat by Zuccolotto Designs, a young company operated by young sisters and show jumpers, Ariana and Chiara Zuccolloto.
Zuccolotto’s “crossover” designs are meant to work equally well in the show ring and out and about in the world. The company’s coats incorporate the latest high tech athletic fabrics that deliver comfort, light weight and breathability in a sophisticated silhouette that’s striking on or off a horse.
Now 21 and 23, the Northern California natives unveiled their first official line two years ago. It was no surprise to those who’ve known Chiara, the designer of the duo. “I was probably 2 when I started sketching dresses and clothes,” she says. She took that passion to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising to earn her degree, then spent a few years gaining experience working for others in the mainstream fashion industry.
Ariana and Chiara have both ridden all their lives and had long known they’d like to go into business together. Designing apparel for the equestrian world, with the crossover capabilities, seemed like a natural fit.
As a designer, Chiara first made professional inroads in the equestrian apparel world by creating custom pieces. Many became auction items for fundraising events. Today, Zuccolotto Designs gets regular requests for custom work, but the sisters haven’t had much time to accommodate them. Orders for their four styles of women’s hunt coats, and one, The Zip, for men, keep them plenty busy.
Chiara is often asked about the creative constraints that presumably exist for a designer of equestrian apparel given the sartorially conservative nature of the sport. “Because we are in the equestrian world every day, I think we forget how much is actually available,” Chiara says.
There’s more room for wild colors and styles in the jumper arena, but even the hunter ring has room for creative expression – as a designer and a rider – she asserts. “Maybe it has to be navy in color, but let’s make it a really sleek navy coat, with sharp pocket details and other accents that make you as the rider and your silhouette really stand out and look your best.”
Neons have lit up mainstream fashion trends and hot pinks have crept into the horse world, Chiara notes. But fresh takes on traditional colors have been the big hits for Zuccolotto. A deep Oxford navy blue, a hunter green and a chocolate brown sold out fast last year, so they’ve brought them back this season. A fawn hue in their Duchess coat was another big hit. As for the next palette of colors, Chiara says “rich” is the operative adjective for what’s on the way.
Along with design details, Chiara is passionate about textiles and the science in ever-evolving options for staying cooler and more comfortable while riding in high style. Making the high tech fabrics work within the context of classic design principles is a challenge to which the Zuccolottos have proudly risen.
“Speaking as a designer, these high tech textiles – super stretchy, lightweight, sometimes mesh – are not our favorite fabric. They don’t have the same appeal to the eye as different types of fashion fabric. We play around with these fabrics to see how it holds and molds and what it’s willing to do. A lot of people feel limited by it, but we haven’t been. We’ve taken on the challenge of applying it to our designs and we’ve made it work. And that’s the case even though our designs are complicated on the patterning level.”
Zuccolotto Designs prides itself on pieces that will be part of the wardrobe for many years. “We’d like to think of ourselves as the equestrian equivalent of Dior and Chanel,” Chiara explains. That means every new design and fabric choice is tested extensively in the prototype phase. Both active amateur jumping riders, Ariana and Chiara are chief product testers, and they recruit friends to put their products through their paces, too.
Since returning to their native Northern California recently, Chiara and Ariana have been riding with another powerful sister team, Jill and Jan Humphrey of JH Sporthorses (California Riding Magazine, Feb. 2017). The tall and elegant trainers are sponsored by Zuccolotto and usually seen showing their students’ coats to great effect.
Ariana and Chiara expect to return to the HITS Coachella circuit for the final two weeks this month. Whatever they’re wearing in the show ring is sure to be in the development phase for future seasons and that may well include apparel beyond hunt coats. A full line of Zuccolotto equestrian crossover pieces is planned for the future, but with so many immediate orders to fill for 2017, breeches and blouses will likely have to wait until 2018.
Zuccolotto Designs are sold online at www.zuccolottodesigns.com, at the EQ Lifestyle Boutique and in a mainstream boutique chain called KJB, Kalifornia Jean Bar.
Written by Kim F. Miller
Monday, 27 February 2017 20:59