Royal Ascot, the most glamorous event in the horse racing season, promotes a sustainable dress code. Even boots become eco-friendly

[On the cover: photo by Jean van der Meulen from Pexels and Franceschini Stivali Milano’ s boot]

The most glamorous event in the horse racing calendar is nearly upon us. The prestigious five-day Royal Ascot meeting is held at the famous racecourse in Ascot, a small town approximately 40 km west of London, which stages a number of races for thoroughbreds throughout the year.

In 2020 the Royal Meeting was held behind closed doors, but this year it will once again be open to the public, from the15th to 19th June, with a dress code in keeping with the times. The Royal Ascot Style Guide strongly advises racegoers to wear clothes and accessories they already have in their wardrobes, or else to go for vintage, second-hand or sustainable outfits. In England, the growing interest in sustainable fashion has found a champion in Prince Charles, who for years has been actively engaged in the protection of the environment through The Prince’s Foundation. His holistic approach touches on all aspects of life, including safeguarding artisanal skills and local community values.  In 2019, for example, he launched The Modern Artisan project in collaboration with Yoox Net-a-Porter, with the aim of providing young Italian and British artisans with the skills and tools they need to excel in today’s digital world and produce collections of high-quality apparel.

It was inevitable that the movement towards sustainability should spread sooner or later to the equestrian world, from the élite public of Royal Ascot to horse-riding accessories.

The impeccable uniform worn by jockeys at Ascot naturally includes their riding boots: real masterpieces of craftsmanship that are also made in Italy by top-notch manufacturers.  Although riding boots can be made of either rubber or leather, Italian boot-makers are particularly skilled at selecting and working premium-quality hides.

Amongst the various shoe manufacturers in Italy that specialise in making riding boots is Alberto Fasciani (read the story); after making riding boots his core business in the ‘80s, however, Fasciano turned his attention to the fashion market, producing a line of footwear that continues to focus on quality and comfort.

Other companies have remained totally dedicated to the equestrian world. The boots produced by Franceschini Stivali Milano are made entirely by hand, and each pair is unique and tailor-made; the production facility is in Monte San Giusto, in the Marche region, while the showroom and design centre are in Milan. The Secchiari Boots brand is also based in the Marche region, in Corridonia, and represents the quintessence of craftsmanship: the art of ‘hand-made’ is celebrated by everyone in the company, from the first person to handle the product to those who package it. Three generations (the family firm was founded in 1950 by Alfredo and Emilia Secchiari) specialising in producing high-quality riding boots that combine elegance and comfort with high-tech performance and protection.

Over 40 years ago, after listening to the needs of both amateur and professional riders, Sergio Grasso created his first prototypes (in Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella, in the province of Verona). The brand makes products suitable for all the equestrian disciplines; jumping, dressage, flat racing, cross-country endurance, but also for those who simply want to go for a hack. Boots are made of calfskin or customised using fine leathers or Swarovski beads, and can also be made to measure. In addition to the traditional line, a few years ago the planet-friendly EcoRiding line was created, using innovative high-performance animal-free materials: an alternative to leather that maintains the same look and feel. “This year, for the endurance discipline, we presented KM Plus – the company explains – as part of the same sustainable project created to respect and be compatible with nature. It combines technology, comfort and Italian design in a shoe with a Vibram sole designed to provide stability and comfort, a breathable 100% waterproof upper, anatomical Ortholite insole to help prevent foot fatigue and neutralize odour, speed lace closure and elasticated collar. The lining is made of Sympatex, a moisture-wicking material that increases comfort and is entirely recyclable”. The equestrian world is therefore aligning itself with that of fashion, increasingly focused on preserving the environment through the use of products made with natural or recycled materials.

Flavia Colli Franzone