The equestrian silhouette – breeches, tall boots, crisp tailoring – have been synonymous with high fashion for hundreds of years. The house of Gucci, Hermes, and others either began their foray into fashion through the horse world or were inspired by it.
But when it comes to equestrians designing for equestrians, the new guard has arrived, and one of the stars for Generation Z is Canadian Kaelyn Kennedy, who launched TKEQ in 2017.
Born in Calgary, Kennedy was a junior rider in the hunter/jumper ring when she decided to create a line of graphic t-shirts for herself and other young riders. “At seventeen, I felt the casual equestrian apparel was lacking the modern look I was searching for,” she says. “I wanted to create very clean, contemporary text on universal colours without loud graphics or design.”
A look at the current collections will find that this initial blueprint of TKEQ – which stands for Team Kennedy Equine – is still distinguishable. Horse Sport asked Kennedy about what inspires her, what exciting style launches are coming for summer 2022, and what’s next for her.
HORSE SPORT: Who are your style muses?
KAELYN KENNEDY: At the moment I’m loving Georgina Bloomberg’s and Lillie Keenan’s style. Georgina is elegant and classic – the spitting image of equestrian style. I’m loving the bright show jackets Lillie has been wearing.
HS: How influenced are you by what you’re seeing in ready-to-wear fashion?
KK: As the “equestrian-influence” is represented in certain mainstream brands, we are doing the same. The popularity of ‘athleisure’ ‒ comfortable athletic apparel ‒ was a strong influence from the late-2010s. The Pantone colour of the year, Very Peri, has made its way through both mainstream and equestrian brands. Our Violet Edit reflects this year’s hue beautifully.
HS: Were you surprised by the rapid success of your brand?
KK: Definitely! Surprised, flattered, and optimistic for TKEQ’s future. The launch of our Athletic Collection in March 2020 changed the brand’s trajectory and my expectations for it. I like to refer to it as my “Kylie Jenner” moment – the website sold out within minutes, and I knew TKEQ was about to take-off!
HS: What sets TKEQ apart from other brands?
KK: TKEQ has certainly become the blueprint for equestrian athletics’ brands, and we were fortunate to be one of the first and because of that we have influenced the entire trend by focusing on schooling tops made for equestrians and their unique athletic needs. Our innovation, sustainability and global representation have put TKEQ in a league of its own.
HS: Your site and marketing are very much of your generation; how do you think your millennial/Gen Z customer approaches equestrian fashion differently from older generations?
KK: Social media has played a major role in our marketing. As a fellow Gen Z, I’ve created TKEQ with an equestrian customer like myself in mind. Authenticity and positivity have been our core values, as well as strength in growing brand recognition within both generations.
Millennial/ Gen Z also very aware of the importance of their heath – mental, physical, emotional – and the environment they are part of. TKEQ and I share these values, which is why I think we have had this success.
HS: What are you most excited to launch for TKEQ this year?
KK: We are rapidly approaching our Sloan Show shirt launch in July! TKEQ is well-known for offering schooling tops, so this is a new expansion of the brand. The Sloan Show Shirt is cohesive with our standard top features; UV protection, 4-way stretch, breathability and contemporary design.
HS: How involved are you in day-to-day design and fabric selection?
KK: I wouldn’t say control freak, but I’m very hands on. I love my job – it is so fulfilling and rewarding – which makes me more involved. Designing products, collections, colour stories and campaigns are my primary responsibilities.
I find it challenging working far in advance. Most of our collections are finalized eight to ten months prior to launching on our website ‒ In fact, I’m heading to our Holiday 2022 shoot this weekend.
HS: What are your future plans to grow the brand?
KK: TKEQ and I have grown up together – which is very special. Customers can see the collections maturing and becoming more intricate each year.
TKEQ will continue to grow as a schooling and competition brand. Expanding to the ‘resort sport’ market would be a fluid next step. Many TKEQ athletes wear our tops in and out of the saddle.
HS: When you launched the brand in 2017 you were still in your junior year as a rider. What’s happening with your own riding career now?
KK: I’m proud to be an amateur equestrian athlete! The pandemic unfortunately started as I was horse shopping in California. With normalcy returning to life and horse shows, I’m certainly looking forward to getting back in the saddle.
HS: Any advice for other young riders who want to merge their love of riding with their career aspirations?
KK: Do it! There are many avenues to explore in the equestrian world. Whether you decide to become a working student, form a show barn, or start a breeches brand, it’s a great way to compliment your existing passion for horses.