Each year, a wave of equestrian innovation sweeps through winter circuits around the country, and while there’s never a shortage of space-age-looking stirrups, unconventional tack choices, and a must-have helmet of the season, truly groundbreaking design, at least when it comes to riding wear, can be hard to find. But not this year.
Free x Rein‘s riding pant and bodysuit collection might look different from other equestrian apparel that you’ve seen, and that’s just what the line’s founders, Andrea Hippeau Vogel and Dana Schwartz, intended. The need for a direct-to-consumer line in the equestrian space made perfect sense to Schwartz, a documentary film director and producer, and Vogel, who came from the venture capital world where she frequently worked with direct-to-consumer brands such as Glossier and Warby Parker.
“How strange is it that you can buy anything from diapers to mattresses direct online, but you still have to shop for your riding clothes at a show?” Vogel says. “When I realized that we could make a high quality, unique product and apply everything I’ve learned about e-commerce, the light bulb went off that this was the opportunity to start my own company that I had been waiting for.”
“It eliminates the worry about having to constantly tuck in your shirt or keep pulling your breeches up while riding or running around the barn.”
Two years and hundreds of product tests later, Schwartz and Vogel’s debut collection—which launched this December—is already making waves. Bodysuits may be a brand new idea for equestrian shoppers, but according to Schwartz, the concept couldn’t make more sense.
“I suppose I always thought leotards and bodysuits were for ballet dancers and I just didn’t understand their purpose,” Schwartz explains. “The Moto bodysuit acts as a second skin—you instantly forget you’re wearing a bodysuit because it is breathable and soft, it never looks sloppy, and [it eliminates] the worry about having to constantly tuck in your shirt or keep pulling your breeches up while riding or running around the barn.”
As lifelong riders, Schwartz and Vogel say their design inspiration came from the kind of clothes that they like to ride and compete in themselves. Schwartz, who rides primarily in the hunter divisions, currently owns and shows her brother Teddy’s first junior hunter. “‘Pops’, as he is known in the family, is an incredibly special horse. He is blind in one eye and is one of the most athletic, smart, and gentle horses I have ever had the pleasure of riding,” she says. “He has taught me a lot and forgives the occasional amateur blunder!”
Vogel grew up riding on the family farm and spent four years competing on the IHSA team at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Today, Andrea competes her “horse of a lifetime,” Nerval, in the Low and Medium Amateur/Owner jumper divisions and also splits duties with Schwartz at the friends’ boarding and training facility, Skyline Stables in Bedford Hills, N.Y., where they train with Aidan Killeen and Brady Mitchell.
“I’ve had [Nerval] for four years and he took me from a very timid rider to winning classes. There is nothing that he won’t do for you…as long as you have mints!” Vogel jokes. “He also does some modeling for Free x Rein on the side. He is 16 but is still going strong—I love when I see older horses in the top classes because it means I have a lot more time with him.”
But time, for horses and riders, alike, is always of the essence. And that’s another thing that Schwartz and Vogel understand about today’s working amateur: the need to multitask—especially when it comes to your riding apparel. “After so many years of riding in the early morning before work, or in the evening after work, it became extremely frustrating to always have to change at home, in the car, in a random bathroom—you’d be totally grossed out if I told you all the places I have changed in or out of my riding clothes!” Vogel says.
The fix? Designing a versatile line with crossover pieces that could go from the barn to lunch in town or even drinks with friends, and vice versa. “I have been wearing the Moto [bodysuit] a lot when I travel, whether I have been spending long hours on a plane, car, or walking several miles,” Schwartz says. “It is so easy to wear and makes any outfit look refined.”
“We are the customer and we have extremely high standards for what we ride and live in.”
Vogel also likes to wear the bodysuit tucked into high-waisted jeans for a day out in the city, and says that she often wears Free x Rein’s Signature Ponte Pant to both work and dinner. “They are the only pants I have ever worn that feel better on than off,” Vogel says. “They’re like wearing your favorite pair of leggings, but with the style of a tailored pant, so you never worry about them not looking professional or chic enough. You can go straight from work or running errands to the barn and look perfectly dressed for both.”
In other words, for riders making weekend trips to Florida circuits and beyond, Free x Rein’s versatile collection has a lot of perks to recommend it—increased carry-on space being one of them. But even when they’re not doing double duty, Free x Rein’s pieces stand apart thanks to their clean, modern lines and a figure-flattering silhouette. For the line’s creators, that’s just the point. “We created this brand for ourselves and women like us,” says Vogel. “We are the customer and we have extremely high standards for what we ride and live in.”
Dana Schwartz agrees. “I hope to make Free x Rein the go-to uniform for so many women who ride, knowing that whenever they come to us for new apparel, they are buying chic and functional clothing that will make them feel confident no matter [what].”
-All photos courtesy of Free x Rein.
Written by Nina Fedrizzi
Nina Fedrizzi spends her days writing about horse sport, food, and travel. She began her career at Travel + Leisure and is a former editor at NF Style. When she's not tapping away on her MacBook, Nina can usually be found on a horse, sleuthing out the local pho, or refusing to unpack her carry-on. Watch her do all three on Instagram @ninafedrizzi.