In the spring of 2016, Adrienne Marciano was tired of spending money on leather belts, only for them to look bulky and frumpy under a show coat. So, she bought some colored elastic and had a family friend make them into belts at her kitchen table. She unknowingly debuted those very first elastic belt prototypes at the Devon Horse Show, and after being stopped by spectators and exhibitors alike asking where she bought that fabulous accessory, Ruespari was born.
Named after her French bulldog, Pearl Rue, and her amateur owner jumper, Laspari, Ruespari is a dream come true for Adrienne, who knew she wanted a career in fashion from a young age. “I always knew I wanted to be in fashion, but funnily enough, Ruespari started from not even realizing it,” says Adrienne, a Pennsylvania native. “I wore them around the horse show, and every single day people were like, ‘Where did you get that?’ Right away, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this could be something that I could market,’ and that’s what happened.”
Though the inception might have been an accident, Ruespari belts are now carried in over 30 tack stores across the globe, including major retailer Dover Saddlery, as well as upscale boutiques, golf pro shops, and international tack stores in Canada, Germany, and Sweden – something that Adrienne is fiercely proud of. But the road hasn’t been without its bumps: Adrienne learned how tough it can be for a female entrepreneur to make it.
“There was a problem early on that some of the engraved clasps were getting scratched in transit, so I called my supplier,” she says. “He actually laughed at me and he didn’t like my tone. It opened my eyes to the fact that men are able to conduct themselves in a [certain] way in business and they’re not called out for being picky, bitchy, [or that] their tone is wrong.”
But being picky has served her well, especially as her company has expanded. “We’re really discerning about what tack shops we go into,” Adrienne says. “The image is all very important. If I don’t know the tack shop, if they don’t have social media or anything like that, I always have them send me pictures of their shop.”
Since Ruespari’s inception, Adrienne has worked hard to ensure that her brand stays consistent. She’ll be the first to admit that without social media, that goal might not have been so easy to accomplish. “We wouldn't be able to do what we do without the existence of the Internet and social media,” she says. “We were able to start something and have it progress in two years’ time to a level that might have taken 10 years without the social media platforms. It is how our retailers first saw us, our customers, [and] celebrities that wanted to wear us.”
One such celeb is show jumper and “The Big Bang Theory” star Kaley Cuoco, who partnered with the brand to wear a belt that benefited Paw Works, a California non-profit dedicated to rehoming abandoned animals. In fact, giving back is something near and dear to Adrienne’s heart. “I love animals, and a lot of the charitable belts that we do, actually, are for animal causes,” which makes sense, since the brand is cruelty-free. Ruespari is currently partnered with The Peeps Foundation and gives 20 percent of the proceeds from the Peeps Pink belt to rescue and rehabilitate dwarf mini horses.
As a lifelong equestrian herself, it’s no wonder that animals are at the core of everything Adrienne does. At the age of eight, Adrienne took a lesson on a pony named J. Crew, which may have subconsciously influenced her to create a line of preppy accessories many years later. She held onto that infatuation with horses as she grew up and now lets it dictate the path of her brand.
“I love the connection – the unique connection – that a rider can have with their horse,” says Adrienne, who has certainly found that special something in her dapple gray gelding, Laspari. “These animals, even though they can’t talk, they connect with you on such a deep level. If you’ve ever shown a horse and jumped it, and if you’ve ever felt the horse underneath you trying to win with you, it’s probably the most unreal feeling.”
Her years of experience in the saddle have certainly influenced her business philosophy. “You have to have a clear path of what you want,” she says about how she’s built Ruespari from the ground up. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but you need to have a big picture image in mind of what you want for your life, what you want for your business. The biggest [piece of] advice I can give an entrepreneur is don’t let anyone tell you your idea is not a good idea.”
Clearly, designing elastic belts was a good idea, as Adrienne has had to deal with copycat companies over the years. “I went directly to my lawyer and asked, ‘How is this even legal?’ In every business, there are immoral and unethical people, but there are good people, too. Stick with the good people in any industry you are in.” It would be understandable to let something like this get you down, but Adrienne refuses to focus on negative factors she can’t control. “If you really are a positive person, and you live a positive life, and you’re good to other people, you can do the things that you imagine.”
Though the business has exploded since that first fateful weekend at the Devon Horse Show three years ago, all Ruespari belts are still handcrafted in a studio on the Philadelphia Main Line by Adrienne and her team. “I’m really all about quality control. If a belt does not look perfect, it’s not getting sold. My name is on every package that leaves, so I stand behind everything.”
Ruespari’s tagline is ‘Be Flexible’, and though it’s clearly referring to the belts that stretch and flex with the equestrian athlete, it’s also describing Adrienne herself. “Life is going to throw you curveballs and you have to just keep your eye on the prize,” she says. “I really get complacent and I hate change, but now I’ve started to just embrace it. As long as I keep my end goal in the forefront of my head and I don’t let negative things or comments affect me, I’m going to get there in the end.”
All photos by Dani Maczynski Photography.
Written by Kate Kosnoff
Kate Kosnoff is an equestrian journalist, blogger and photographer. When she isn’t working, Kate can usually be found sipping green tea, scrolling through Twitter, or petting her horses—sometimes a combination of the three. She is based in Indiana and can often be spotted in jumper rings across the Midwest and Florida aboard her strawberry roan, Waffle.