When Canada’s equestrian team takes to the world stage at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, they will be sporting fashions by a Langley designer.
Noel Asmar’s line of equestrian clothing will outfit Canada’s show jumping, dressage, eventing and para-dressage teams.
“It’s a really proud moment to be part of this, to create a cohesive look that will empower each rider and unify the team as a whole to show the world,” said Asmar.
“It’s going to make Team Canada look sleek and together.
“They will stand out.”
In Rio, Asmar will join the world’s biggest names in fashion design, including Ralph Lauren, who will dress the U.S. equestrian team, and Giorgio Armani, who is outfitting Team Italy.
Asmar said working with the Canadian Olympic group has been fascinating, and adhering to all the Games’ requirements has been a fun challenge.
“We won’t know who we are dressing and what sizes are needed until the last minute [because Team Canada hasn’t yet been announced],” said Asmar.
Designer a horse enthusiast
The designer, who was born and raised in B.C., owns two horses and rides regularly.
She came up with the equine fashion line to provide clothing that was both stylish and functional for casual riders.
“(It’s) made for the way you move,” she said.
The mother of three, who is raising her children with her husband in south Langley, has always had an interest in fashion, but her background is in international hotel management.
Her career has taken her all over the world, from Vietnam to Dubai.
“While (in Asia), I would spend my time off in the night fabric markets.
“I loved the fabrics — the textures and colours — and that’s where my passion for fashion design started to take root.”
At the same time, she was staying in hotels and noticed the housekeeping staff in tired looking uniforms and spa staff wearing hospital-type scrubs.
Her sister was working as an esthetician, and the two women got talking about the uniforms — standard scrubs, which Asmar calls “boxy smocks.”
“At the time, nobody in the world was doing spa uniforms. I came up with some designs that were both contemporary and functional, coined the term spa uniforms and launched Spa Uniforms Inc. and spauniforms.com.”
Spa uniforms launched her career
More than a decade later, Asmar’s spa uniforms are available in 65 countries and her signature line, which offers a range of styles and colours, outfits thousands of spa and hotel staff around the world.
“It was a niche that wasn’t filled,” she said.
The contemporary style of the uniforms, which barely resemble uniforms, elevates the status of the hotel and spa staff and gives them confidence and empowers them, she said.
“I remember putting housekeeping staff into my uniforms and they actually cried because they felt so much better about themselves.
“Most people think of clothing as just material, but the right clothing can empower someone, give them confidence.
“A nice uniform has a symbolic presence.”
It’s that symbolic, unified presence the world will see at the Olympics in August.
Her first step into the equine fashion world came out of designing an all-weather jacket for herself for rainy days when she is out riding and wants to be able to cover both the saddle and her backside.
“Owning horses, you can’t pick and choose the weather when they need to be fed, or wait for good weather to ride, so I designed the ‘All-Weather Rider’ for myself,” she said.
The waterproof design went beyond function, offering a sexy, contemporary look that was both flattering and functional.
Coat won international competition
She decided to enter the coat into an international competition for innovative design.
Out of hundreds of submissions, her jacket won the top prize.
That was five years ago.
Since then, the coat is one of her most popular sellers with female riders and athletes.
Even soccer moms who have to watch games on rainy days like the coat, she said.
Her equestrian apparel, which also includes polos and long-sleeved tops, quickly garnered attention in the fashion world, where her small collection has been featured in Bazaar and Harper’s magazines.
Asmar clothing is sold at Bella and Wren in Fort Langley, Bates Tack in Brookswood and at Thunderbird Show Park.
She is especially proud of the fact that 70 per cent of her clothing is made in Greater Vancouver. Her office in White Rock employs a creative team of 27 people.
Until three years ago, Asmar came up with all her own designs, but now she is joined by two others who are helping create a new women’s clothing line, scheduled to be launched in the fall.
They will have a pop-up store for three months in the new Tsawwassen Mills shopping mall, opening in October.
The full line will be available at Bella and Wren as well.
Noel Asmar Equestrian will also present this year’s Longines FEI World Cup Qualifier on Aug. 28 at Thunderbird Show Park.
To see Noel Asmar’s collections, including her Italian handbags made in Florence, click here.