Dec 14, 2009 at 02:29 PM
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Fashion Houses Battle for 'Horse Culture'

Suzy Menkes of the New York Times today penned a piece on how Gucci and Hermès are using equestrian sponsorships to reinforce brand relevance with the luxury lifestyles they cater to.

Gucci sponsored the Gucci Masters this past weekend near Paris, while Hermès announced Le Saut Hermès would compliment its vast portfolio of horse jumping events this spring, by bringing equestrian chic back to the Grand Palais for a two day event next Spring. The Grand Palais first show jump was held in 1901, but no event has been held there since 1957, according to the Grand Palais website.

Horse jumping is more about the brand than a particular audience or event, Menkes writes:

No one could call Gucci an upstart when it comes to the horse culture. The legendary bar-and-bit symbols on shoes and bags trace their origins back to the founding of the brand in 1921. And Frida Giannini, Gucci’s creative director, has had a long love affair with ponies.

For some of the world's most famous fashion houses, horse jumping sponsorships are a subtle sell that is more rooted in the brand rather than direct sales.

Menkes writes:

Product is part of the luxury brand story: Gucci created for the Masters a one-off special edition silk scarf that was for sale, with other equestrian-inspired branded offerings, in a pop-up store at the Villepinte site.

Yet the heart of the sponsorships is not commerce but the soul of the brands. Hermès has never deviated from its noble, officer-and-gentleman image. But this is a good time to reinforce that classy conception, at a moment when luxury has become associated with a period of extravagance and excess.