Noreen Cothran is the expert on show ring fashion. She’s the authority on what’s in and what’s out, and the queen of the cutting edge. Curious, I asked her how she stays on top of the trends and fads that go sweeping through the horse show world. Her response proved I had asked the wrong question. “We set trends rather than recognize them,” she declared.
I hardly knew that Noreen’s tack shop wielded such power. I remembered a time when the very same tack shop, known as The Farm House, also sold pool supplies and cattle farm equipment. Well, those were the small-time beginnings in my mind, but in sitting down with Noreen I learned that the story goes back even further. Her mother began a tack shop in 1984 to fill a need in the burgeoning horse community of Tryon, NC. People wanted a local place to buy equestrian supplies, so she opened a small tack shop in the tack room at their Flying Dutchman Farm. It existed on the honor system: people simply walked in the door, grabbed what they needed, and dropped off the money in return. Noreen then took over the small business, implanting within it much larger aspirations. By 1989 she had moved the business out of her mother’s tack room and into an old feed and seed building. With that, The Farm House was born.
The Frontline of Fashion
Nowadays, the numbers are huge: they stock 1,900 pairs of Tailored Sportsman breeches and over 1,000 show coats at all time. Between their two mobile units, The Farm House covers the largest A and AA shows in Southeast and Northeast. It was the mobile units that allowed Noreen to raise the bar and become the go-to expert on chic show ring attire. The equipment she saw at the horse shows was always of the highest caliber. That’s what sold, so that’s what the mobile units stocked. From there, her route of development was an intuitive one, and she focused on her own sense of what would work and what would not. Her gut instinct has proved right time and time again, as you can see upon strolling through a horse show. The Farm House’s bright red shopping bags move through the show grounds in the hands of trendsetting riders. Spot that bag from a mile a way and you already know: whatever’s inside is the latest thing. The trends The Farm House sets spread like wildfire.
This has not gone unnoticed, even by the largest national brands. Ariat flies representatives out to South Carolina to consult with Noreen, and together they determine the coming fads two years in advance. Yes, these leaders have the power to determine the coming fads in the horse show world, but these fads are not arbitrary. Rather, they reflect trends in the larger fashion world. Equestrian clothing companies on the vanguard of fashion determine the “in” styles based on what is happening in mainstream fashion. They work with the season’s dominant colors, patterns, and materials because consumers like to keep with the trend. Tailored Sportsman, for example, was in tune with Chanel’s quilt pattern in making their hot new line of quilted belts.
In sitting down with the fashionista queen, I did remember to ask the most important question: what’s hot on the horizon in show ring fashion? The answer? Tech fabrics.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are coming back into an age where our riding clothes have a purpose. The traditional riding habit—built for the hunt field—once existed with function in mind. Stock ties served as makeshift bandages, stock pins secured them, and heavy wool coats protected riders from the branches and stickers on the trails.
Well, times have changed, purposes have shifted, and only recently has show ring attire begun to reflect this. Modern riders now strut into the show ring in clothes that work as hard as they do. They wear socks that wick moisture, shirts that block UV rays, jackets that breathe, and fabric that moves with them. “It’s all about comfort, movement, and easy care,” says Noreen. Tech fabric clothes are adapted to the modern rider’s needs.
Take, for example, Grand Prix’s Tech Lite shads. The stifling wool coats of the past have made way for new, lightweight, machine washable jackets. Fortunately, style has not been sacrificed in the quest for a better competition jacket. The nontraditional colors break away from basic, another trend that is beginning to appear. For the past five years the show world has seen nothing but traditional colors and basic designs. Now, it’s time to shake it up. We are getting back into color and back into bling!
Do you want to be a trendsetter? Between Equestrian Stylist and The Farm House we’ve got you covered. Keep in tune for the latest styles on EquestrianStylist.com, and be sure to visit The Farm House’s mobile unit at your next A show.