Still, for Philo the ultimate expression of equestrian chic is the iconic Helmut Newton photo of a woman with a saddle on her back. “It captures everything that is great about a woman in riding clothes,” Philo says, hastening to add, “I do think that Princess Anne has a certain je ne sais quoi when out hacking!”
Stella McCartney also has a soft spot for “horsey stuff: You can’t help it when you’re always with horses, like me,” says the designer, who rides Flo Jo, an American quarter horse (a wedding present from McCartney’s husband), every weekend and whose signature collection for next autumn includes jodhpurs and T-shirts bearing photos by her late mother, Linda, of her own Appaloosa. “There’s something very sensual about riding and something very feminine as well.” McCartney praises the fact that riding attire “sucks you in in all the right places” and argues that the appeal of horses is universal and eternal. “I know a lot of people who want to go into the police force just so they can ride horses,” she says.
An equestrian pulse, minus any bourgeois connotations, also thrums through the collections of Belgian designer Ann Demeulemeester. “It’s part of my culture,” she says over the phone from her Le Corbusier house on the edge of Antwerp, explaining that she grew up in a small town called Waregem, where the main attraction was a hippodrome.
At 12 she received a horse from her grandfather—which she describes as her best present ever—only to have her mother sell the animal because of her fears about the dangers of riding. No matter: Demeulemeester has been riding out her fantasies by incorporating equestrian elements into her collections over the past two decades, from graphic prints evoking jockey uniforms and expertly tailored redingotes to her own take on riding boots, a perennial best-seller.
As for getting a horse, “it’s on my wish list,” she says. “I already have a stall. I have a piece of land. One day I’ll find a solution.”