At first glance, international dressage stars like Adelinde Cornelissen and Charlotte Dujardin, who spend most of their days on horseback, appear to have little in common with Hollywood celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry. But take a closer look at these women when they attend their respective red-carpet events—whether the FEI General Assembly Gala or the Academy Awards—and you might notice that their gowns, quite literally, share a common thread. Their luxurious fabrics, rich with color and texture, are a signature element of garments designed by Reem Acra, who is the sponsor of the 2015 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A native of Lebanon who now lives in the United States, Acra is the mastermind behind her own brand of iconic American couture, ready-to-wear and bridal lines. She says that although the country in which she grew up has a substantial equestrian culture, her childhood dream of owning a horse was cut short. “When I was a little girl, I was never able to really learn riding due to time and the responsibilities,” Acra says.
Her busy schedule as a fashion designer still doesn’t allow time for horses, so she has involved herself in the FEI to fill the void. “I wish I had time to ride and learn [dressage] properly,” she says. “My life does not allow me the time to enjoy the sport, but I found a way to be involved. Sponsoring dressage is a special thing for me.”
Acra was first exposed to elite dressage competition through her international travels. She explains that dressage has always been more popular overseas, and she has friends who have helped her learn more about the sport. In 2010, she was a sponsor of the eventing championships at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky, but wasn’t able to attend. Although it tends to be a busy time for the bridal market, she hopes to attend the 2015 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas.
Dressage Today recently had the opportunity to interview Acra about her connection with equestrian culture and her desire to sponsor the FEI World Cup Dressage Finals. Join us as we take a glimpse into the world of Reem Acra.
DT:What intrigues you about equestrian culture?
RA: The ambition of the riders and the connection between two lives. I feel there is a sort of special marriage between the two, the rider and the horse.
DT: Have you ever considered making an equestrian line?
RA: I have toyed with the idea of starting small—a few pieces for a select number of riders—and working up from there. However, I fear I don’t really have the time. My ready-to-wear, couture and bridal lineskeep me far too busy!
DT: Do horses inspire any of your pieces?
RA: Absolutely. Their grace and beauty absolutely influence the way I think and design.
DT: Do you see parallels between the worlds of equestrian and fashion?
RA: Yes, these two worlds definitely have something in common: That would be to seek beauty.
DT: Tell us about the gown Adelinde wore when she received the FEI’s Best Athlete Award in 2011.
RA: I loved this gown for Adelinde. I have a talent where I can take one look at a person and immediately gauge their size, their style and what will look best on them. I did the same with Charlotte. I was able to perfectly fit them without actually seeing them.
DT: Why sponsor the World Cup?
RA: Sponsoring the FEI World Cup was my chance to get back into the equestrian world. I also think it’s a partnership that makes a lot of sense—graceful performances, elegant athletes and a passionate fan base.
DT: Why sponsor dressage?
RA: I love the beauty and grace of the sport. The horses and riders work together to deliver a spectacular performance. They are at once disciplined but also powerful and graceful. There are many similarities in character between these athletes and my customers.
DT: Who are your favorite horse-and-rider combinations?
RA: I adore Charlotte and Valegro—what an incredible combination, athletically and wonderful for the sport in general. And of course Adelinde will always have a special place in my heart.
Dressing the Belles of the Ball
Adelinde Cornelissen, who is best known for her partnership with the Dutch Warmblood Jerich Parzival, said she was thrilled when she had the chance to wear a dress designed by Reem Acra to the FEI General Assembly Gala in Rio de Janiero in 2011. “I was flabbergasted. What a fantastic experience,” she says.
The design of the gown was a complete surprise to Cornelissen, who had traveled to Paris to meet with Acra. “Within no time, she knew what kind of character I was and what dress I would like,” she says. The dress took shape in a golden gown, accented with glitter and sparkles. “I really felt like a winner,” the lucky recipient remembers.
Charlotte Dujardin echoed a similar sentiment. “I was fortunate to wear one of Reem Acra’s stunning dresses when I received the FEI Best Athlete Award in 2013. Reem Acra’s designs epitomize timeless elegance, and you can’t help but feel beautiful in one of them. The dress and the occasion summarized my journey so far, and I thank Ms. Acra for the honor.”