Sophie Mercer is an equestrian clothing designer behind Eqcouture, a sports luxe fashion brand, and has grown her business from just one box of riding leggings as a part-time interest into a full-time job with a strong team behind her.
As an equestrian herself, having owned horses all her life, Sophie understands what stylish horse riders want and desire from their riding wear and it was helping her husband push his sports fashion label, Mercier that inspired her to take a design journey of her own.
Sophie’s clothing range crosses over from equestrian to gym wear and beyond – creating a lifestyle that her loyal growing customer base love. Sophie now has customers all over the globe.
Share your background and what led you to launch Eqcouture.
The entrepreneur in me started very young! In my teens, I bought, produced, and sold a pony and made a profit, leading me to buy another. Then, alongside a full-time job working in my father’s furniture and stationery business, I began to purchase horses from Ireland and produce and sell them. This was a successful business for me, but with Brexit came import challenges and rising costs, so I began to look for other ways to occupy my busy mind and embrace my love of equestrianism. I had always been interested in riding wear but could never find what I loved at the quality and price, so I decided to set up my own brand as a side-line. I taught myself a lot while working in my father’s business, from website building and photoshop, accountancy, email marketing, and more, so I applied all these skills to Eqcouture. Alongside my new website, I ordered my first pair of riding leggings and attempted to fit Eqcouture between working full-time and producing and selling horses.
At first, I was selling just one or two pairs, but I knew from the feedback from those early customers that I was onto something, and I tried to stay positive and focused. Then the Pandemic hit, and with people unable to shop in physical stores, they soon turned to online shopping, and it was then that our online sales started to pick up. I was soon designing more styles and ordering more stock to meet the growing demand.
“The lockdown proved to be a turning point for me, and my love of equestrian style pulled me ever closer to Eqcouture with a fresh emphasis on doing something positive during this dark time.” I think the Pandemic was a time for reflection for many of us. Whilst I loved working for my father and producing horses and selling, I loved designing equestrian clothing more. I just felt that if I was going to make a change, the time was then, so I took the plunge and invested all my time, money, and energy into Eqcouture.
“Eqcouture has grown from selling 200 pairs of riding tights to a 900% increase in sales since we launched. I now work full-time on the brand and have a brilliant, dynamic, dedicated team. This year, we have taken Eqcouture on the road, featuring at many of the big shows and events across the UK, a move which has had a substantial positive impact.”
What stylish and luxurious products can we find at Eqcouture?
Everything from equestrian riding tights and base layers to outerwear and equestrian accessories. The collection evolves season by season, and we are always looking to expand and deliver what stylish equestrians love and desire.
Your clothing range crosses over from equestrian to gym wear. Tell us more.
I love the way gym wear has become acceptable to wear beyond the confines of the gym and wanted to create clothing that carried the same. Eqcouture looks and feels good in and out of the saddle.
Many of our designs are created for the modern equestrian to wear away from the yard and as fitness wear. To be a great rider, you need to be physically fit – Eqcouture embodies this ethos by giving our customers the joy of wearing our clothes in the saddle, running, working out in the gym, or on the yoga mat.”
What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur?
I think maintaining an unwavering belief that you will one day have a successful business. You must stay focused even when things aren’t moving quickly or in the direction, you had planned. Making mistakes along the way is a learning curve you must accept as part of your evolution and growth. Learning to reflect, realign focus, and move on can be challenging but essential for success.
Tell us about your New Limited Edition Eqcouture Symmetry Horsewear Collection.
Fashionable riding wear has significantly impacted horse wear over the past ten years, as riders seek to complement their riding wear with what their horse wears under the saddle. We wanted to bring out a range that would dress our customer’s horses to perfection; somewhere, they could find the same beautiful design and quality as their clothing in stylish color and design. The Eqcouture Symmetry Horsewear Collection is just that.”