Catching up with Lei in Paris for the unveiling of Miasuki at Pierre Guibert’s exquisite equestrian shop.
TEXT Susanne Madsen PHOTOGRAPHY Miasuki
If Sissi, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, were alive today, she’d no doubt be flying over fences in a Miasuki frill Victoriana organza collar stretch silk blouse and a nipped-in jacket. She wouldn’t even need her corset: you sit tall and elegant in Miasuki’s flattering hyper-technical Italian and Swiss fabrics, in the kind of reduced streamlined silhouettes that wouldn’t look out of place on the front row during couture week.
Last week, we were in Paris for the unveiling of Miasuki at Guibert, the saddlemaker and equestrian emporium on Avenue Victor Hugo, with Miasuki founder Mia S. Lei and the brand’s riders; young showjumpers Flore Giraud and Iman Perez. Here, owner Pierre Guibert sells a curated edit of brands and his own craftsmanship pieces, from leather goods to scarves and bridles. (Good luck leaving without buying anything – we fell off the ‘must not buy any more saddle pads’ wagon with a thump.)
It’s hardly surprising, Monsieur Guibert said, that he has picked up Miasuki: both houses inhabit a luxury lifestyle universe but also value technical perfection. “We absolutely want a very top quality product with very good materials and very good manufacturing. Nowadays, people try to have ‘less expensive, less expensive’ and the problem is it can get dangerous in this sport. Especially in leather, if something breaks,” he notes.
Guibert was also very much drawn to Miasuki for its aesthetics and the way the label taps into what he calls the continental look. “The UK and the US are very, very classical – old brands. In Great Britain you ride in the classical old jacket, the same as your mother, as your grandmother, as your great-grandmother. Or you destroy things with piping everywhere, with the diamanté,” he says with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. “You do not have the continental product as we have here. Something stylish with surprising colours but on a very classical basis.”
Miasuki definitely nails the purity in design with a striking yet subtle twist. Take their precision-tailored black jacquard jackets or the fact that they’ve cleverly combined white breeches and a show shirt into a slick bodysuit worthy of a superheroine. Most things also double as daytime or evening pieces – very luxe athleisure, if you will.
And in a sport where women’s ridingwear has historically been adapted from the male riding uniform, Lei comes at it strictly from a female perspective. Her pieces follow the female form while giving complete freedom of movement. There’s a sensitivity to her graceful, high-end technicality. The knowledge that women’s bodies aren’t just athletic machines but that there’s an emotional side to performance and clothes. You want to wear stuff that makes you feel powerful and comfortable in your body.
Scroll down for our conversation with Mia S. Lei to read her thoughts on pushing the equestrian look forward and upcoming Miasuki projects and see the images from the evening’s cocktail party at Loulou. And stay tuned for the second part of our coverage from Paris: our interview with Miasuki ambassadors Iman Perez and Flore Giraud and a look at their new Miasuki IX Series 1 style book, shot alongside their fellow showjumper Mathilde Pinault.
The equestrian uniform has such a coded look. How have you approached pushing its parameters?
Mia S. Lei: I do like to go back to the classics. I think every woman likes to go back to the classics. Because of why they’re classics – all women look good in them. It’s not that I don’t like crazy fashion, I do. However we definitely rise above trend and fashion as a brand. It’s the same with the sport. There are certain principles that you keep referring to in terms of the sport. Fashion reflects the time that we are in and I think the same goes for equestrian fashion. The grace, the elegance, the power, the hopes and dreams, fears, it has to reflect all of these things within the sport. Fashion also is such an emotional thing for women and I also want to sort of have that moment with my customer that they know that I know what’s important for them. And I think that’s been missing in the equestrian market.
“Fashion reflects the time that we are in and I think the same goes for equestrian fashion.” – Mia S. Lei
So it’s about clothes you feel good in?
Absolutely. I started because I couldn’t find anything in the market that I would want to wear. Meaning that I didn’t feel comfortable in anything because I’m quite an average-sized woman, I’m not overly stick thin and I’m not overly big either. I think it is still difficult for women who have some shapes. That’s why I only want to do womenswear. I don’t want to do menswear because I would never know how to ride as a man. And I just want to make women feel comfortable, including myself. And it’s not just, oh this whole lot is for riding and then the other lot is for everyday fashion. We really want to mix and match. Fashion is an identity and being a horsewoman is also an identity. Then you show it. You show it to everybody else. I’m a horsewoman.
Are there any plans to produce your beautiful saddle pads that your sponsored riders ride in?
We do have a lot of requests for saddle pads. I have been thinking about it. I will continue to think about it. We have a lot of requests to do lots of stuff. We do things slowly but surely in the company. I want to do things with absolutely no hesitation and with absolute conviction. Once I have the time I would love to investigate into saddle pads because I think what’s out there in the market isn’t satisfying my needs either. I need to go and groom my horses for probably thirty days and then I will come back to you with a saddle pad R&D report! (laughs)
So where do you keep your horses?
At the moment all of my horses are at our family home in Austria.
What’s your discipline? Are you into jumping or dressage?
I do a bit of everything. But then I don’t have a lot of time to ride at the moment. And my body condition is not as good as before because recently I had two children. I had two caesareans. And I really want other women to know it’s okay to feel different after children. Because I also feel the pressure or I see other women getting back into shape, but then I think: everyone takes their own time. And you have a new body, you have to get to know yourself again, have a relationship with yourself again. Don’t get pressured, don’t get cornered. And your body does change for riding afterwards having carried two kids in front. I’d say to everyone, go see an osteopath! They are fantastic. They will put you back in the right order and you will have a lovely deep seat in the saddle again.