Talk about imagination! Forget that Irene Filacchione spent 25 years in retail. Forget she traveled the world — Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok — to name only a few places, and forget that she retired as a buyer for some of the largest department stores in the country. All of this followed her studies at the University of Vienna, none of which were related to fashion design.
These accomplishments pale compared to her latest endeavor. She has designed and launched a new riding ensemble. On the surface, anyone in the rag business might ask, “So, what’s new?”
In this case it is how she went about it. And, rest assure, it’s new!
“I always seem to have things running through my mind. It’s sort of subconscious,” she admitted. For the new equestrian line she was determined it would be like no other.
But, wait. Let’s go back a few years.
IRENE FILACCHIONE didn’t even know how to ride a horse, never owned one or thought of buying one prior to a spur-(no pun intended)-of-the-moment stop at the old Stombock’s, a former saddlery near Gaithersburg. “I had been thinking about wanting to ride at the Potomac Horse Center,” she admitted. However, that hardly warranted the all-out expenditure for the works, — boots, helmet, britches, shirt, vest — before she ever sat on a horse.
Her nuclear scientist husband, Helmut, didn’t hesitate to question all the expense until she was sure she would enjoy riding. “I assured him I would like it, but after my first lesson, I hated it, “ she confessed. However, by the time she finished the first series of instruction she admitted, “I loved it. I was hooked.”
Fast forward to 2005. Filacchione not only rides regularly, but now owns three horses she stables near her Potomac home. Her subconscious mind is on a rampage. Her artistic sense is soaring and her creative abilities never rest. “I was driving down Brickyard Road one day and the idea came to me. Why not a coordinated line in fashion colors for women who care about the way they look when they ride?” she asked herself.
After the seed was planted she thought about it for months. “Then, when I actually sat down to get started it was all there in my mind,” she said.
THE END PRODUCT is a company she named “Connoisseur” after her favorite horse, a champion dressage campaigner who is recovering from the dreaded Potomac Fever disease. The line of riding clothes, originally launched at The Surrey, Potomac, is now carried nationally and internationally.
From her overseas work, while a buyer for department stores, she has manufacturing contacts in China. “My sketches go to them. Samples (of their work) go back and forth many times,” she explained. Filacchione has a business partner, Patricia Hall, who does the marketing.
“I designed what I like to wear when riding — shirt, vest and jacket with proper detail, in fashion colors and good quality,” she emphasized. She insists on nothing flashy, but nothing boring. Pointing to detail, she exhibits jacket zippers with horseshoe pulls, two-way zippers, and hidden seams for versatility. Many of the pieces are reversible; all would make a statement for even those who don’t ride.
“There’s so much junk out there, I see no need to add to it,” she surmised.
Filacchione considers fabric important (light weight, yet warm, a stretch cotton blend, brushed inside for softness, micro fiber in quilted vests) and uses different weights for summer and winter. Currently, she is working on the spring ’07 line.
Pale pink with hot pink, aqua with turquoise, and black and white combos, are prominent colors all featured in shirts, jackets and vests, many reversible and interchangeable.
But, this is the kicker and definitely not recommended for the non-rider. She has designed saddle pads to match the outfits.
“It’s all about detail really. Otherwise, you have just an average line like everyone else. Why bother, if it’s not something special?” she asked.