By Jan Westmark
Charles Ancona started his fashion career in skiwear while teaching skiing in Aspen, Colorado, specializing in technical stretch garments. When he made the jump to the equestrian world more than 11 years ago, he discovered equestrians are just as passionate about their riding clothes.
For the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, Charles outfitted the U.S. Dressage Team, U.S. Eventing Team, U.S. Show Jumping Team and U.S. Para Dressage Team with show jackets and tailcoats. “We do each jacket custom fit with the rider name monogrammed inside, and signed and serial numbered inside as well,” Charles said. “We make them in record time as the teams are always announced at the last minute. It’s truly an honor to have been invited to work with the best riders through the U.S. teams, and we do our best to produce the best-fitting show jackets for each individual.”
Charles went to business school and learned the fashion trade in Milan, Italy. “I did all of my manufacturing there and then learned more in the New York City garment center, where we manufacture now. We are one of the few companies with a MADE IN USA label. We are opening a New York City showroom shortly,” he said.
Within the fashion industry, Charles also worked as a designer for many magazines. “I had full editorial pages as a designer in Vogue, Mademoiselle, Bazaar, GQ, Rolling Stone, Ski magazine and others. Mostly the interpretation of skiwear as fashion.”
Where do you live now and where did you grow up?
I grew up in Connecticut, but I’m a Florida resident now. I had a great family growing up—just me, my sister and the best parents. Now it’s just me and my dog, horse and pony.
When did you start Charles Ancona in the equestrian world?
Right at the point that the stretch technical jackets were taking over the market. I took a big risk, as I didn’t really know any equestrian people or anything about the riding disciplines, so I listened closely to my customers and used my technical knowledge of stretch fabrics and production techniques to win over my first customers.
What do you like about being in the fashion industry in the horse world?
I always liked to do more intricate, high-quality products, and the equestrian people not only appreciate it, but want the best. I really enjoy seeing how much my customers love the products. I have a very loyal customer base of both pony riders and adults in all disciplines, and am very lucky and grateful for this.
Since you’re in the equestrian world, do you ride?
As a kid I always wanted a horse but we weren’t able to have one. My interest then turned to dirt bikes and cars, which I now collect. Now, I have a farm and a horse and a pony, but I don’t ride.
What’s your favorite thing about being part of the horse world?
I truly feel that my jackets have a true effect on performance and winning. In the jumpers, the level of stretch allows complete, full movement, and the lightness and breathability control temperature, which affects reflexes and thus performance and safety as well. In the equitation, hunters and ponies, you are being judged so the fit in the shoulder, the back, the built-in white cuffs and the number of holes all contribute to a better fit and look. The judges notice the difference.
If you weren’t involved with outfitting the horse world, what career do you think you would have picked?
Ice hockey—maybe a racecar driver. I was always an athlete. I was a ski instructor, tennis pro, swim instructor, black belt, motocross racer and played many years of baseball and ice hockey. I truly enjoy what I do now, and will probably never retire.
If you had a week off, what would you do?
It will never happen.
What talents do you feel you have?
I am a problem solver. To run a business with all the daily decisions that need to be made and to be creative with functional garments requires it.
Do you have a personal motto or catch phrase?
Do it right!
What’s your favorite item of clothing to wear?
Training/race jackets that I make. They look sporty.
What three items can usually be found in your refrigerator?
I don’t cook, so simple items that are ready to go: avocados, water and apples.
What’s your favorite meal?
Breakfast. I have the most energy and think better in the mornings.
What would be the best gift in the world?
A long, healthy, happy life
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
To help people in difficult situations. I always like to help others.
What’s something everyone should try at least once?
Working hard. A work ethic is so important.
How would you like people to remember you?
As a generous and caring person and for making the #thebestshowjacketsintheworld