Founded in 1985, the Essex Classics show shirt is a top choice among many of today’s biggest competitors. Founder and CEO, Cathy Sacher, talks about her passion for the equestrian sport and dedication to constantly improving upon a traditional icon.
Q: So, let’s start at the beginning. What inspired you to get into the equestrian shirt business?
CS: I started riding at a young age and fell in love with it. When I went to college in North Carolina, my horse came with me. I showed on the A circuit during those years and it was then I became aware of how important presentation is in the ring. I also discovered a lack of choices in show attire. After earning my MBA, I started working in the corporate world but never lost my passion for horses. My father and grandfather owned a shirt manufacturing business that made men’s dress shirts for upscale designers and retailers. I realized with their help, I could successfully create my own high quality show shirts and sell them to tack shops.
Q: How do you come up with fresh ideas for something as traditional as a show shirt?
CS: As a rider myself, I am immersed in the equestrian world. I spend a lot of time showing on the East Coast and find myself observing what riders are wearing and what looks attractive. I also have the privilege of talking to a lot of professional trainers and judges, so I get a good sense of what is working and what could be better. I firmly believe there are features of a show shirt that should never change. This is tradition. But tweaking style, upgrading comfort and performance are all things that can always be improved upon. However, it is crucial to do it in an understated way so it enhances the rider’s look, rather than detract from it.
Q: What are some of the new concepts you’ve introduced to the industry?
CS: Back in the day when shirts with chokers were customary, Essex was the first company to provide two chokers with every shirt. That meant a rider would not have to buy another shirt if the choker was lost. We also introduced silk trim accents inside the collar and cuff. Our most revolutionary innovation was the wrap collar design, which completely eliminates the need for a separate choker – you can’t lose it. The newest Essex shirt, our Talent Yarn show shirt, is probably my favorite. It has a number of great features including a pullover snap front, nano-tech fabric that lowers your body temperature and wicks away moisture, and under sleeve mesh panels for ventilation. It is by far, the most comfortable shirt we have ever made.
Q: Last question. As an avid equestrian, what do you think has made the Essex brand so successful?
CS: Hmmm… that’s hard being the owner as well. But, I think the fact that we have stayed true to the classic features of a show shirt is key. It must look neat and crisp when the rider enters the show ring. The collar should fit nicely around the neck, looking tall and elegant while remaining secure with our heavy-duty snaps and the cotton cuff should be slightly visible beyond the sleeve of the jacket. Small but important details such as these are what keep me engaged and I believe it’s what appeals to the equestrian world as well.
Explore the entire Essex Classics Collection today and discover a timeless, classically American, show ring style for yourself.