Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a very creative spirit. Always being drawn to art and design; painting, sketching, drawing – you name it, it’s up my alley! Through a friend, I discovered the new up-and-coming Canadian company, Shanah Equestrian.
I was captivated by the incredibly unique style of the artist. I had never seen any equestrian art on the market like these pieces! I had to find out more about the artist and this company. I grabbed a few exquisite pieces for myself too of course!
I have invited the dream team behind the brand, Emmanuelle (artist & designer), France (finance & admin), and Alexia (development & operations), to tell us a bit about the brand!
BEHIND THE BRAND
Shanah Equestrian is a new brand on the equestrian market, bringing together art and horses, through fashion. Tell me more about the brand! What vision do you have in mind for Shanah Equestrian? What do you aim to achieve?
We launched the brand in December 2019 so it’s still very new! We are three co-founders: Emmanuelle (artist & designer), my mom, France (finance & admin), and myself, Alexia (development & operations). For a few years now, I’ve wanted to start a project that I could use to create a positive impact in the equestrian industry. Our vision is to democratize art, combine the beautiful with the accessible, raise funds and awareness for deserving charities, all while keeping the environment as top of mind. We strive for innovation and hope to inspire consumers and other businesses alike to make more socially and environmentally conscious decisions.
The word Shanah actually means “health” in Navajo, an Amerindian language. We think health, either physical or mental, is key towards an accomplished and happy life. Health is what we wish upon everybody and is what we hope to achieve with Shanah Equestrian.
What inspired you to start this business venture?
I am a dressage rider and have been working internationally as a rider, groom, and manager for several years. I know the ins and outs of the industry. The equine industry is constantly in evolution and I wanted to do my part in helping promote a physically and mentally healthy environment for us equestrians! What better way to pass on a message and make an impact than through art? And honestly, what better artist for this project than Emmanuelle? I remember the first time I saw her work; I was completely blown away! I had never seen anything like it. It was actually her work that made me fall in love with visual arts.
Emmanuelle is a very successful dressage trainer and visual artist. She had been wanting to do a project like this for years as a way to democratize art and showcase her work. We met a few years ago working together at the same barn, both eventually going our separate ways, but we always kept in touch. When the idea came to me, I contacted her immediately and her response was “you have amazing timing, I’ve also been wanting to do the exact same thing!”. We are both dreamers with great ambitions. We were both in places in our lives where we could put the time and energy needed and honestly, I think all the stars were aligned.
Tell me about Emmanuelle Bressan, the talented artist behind this beautiful artwork! Who is “Emmanuelle Bressan”? Where did her passion ignite for horses and for art?
Emmanuelle has been involved in visual arts and classical riding since her early youth and has devoted herself to rallying her two passions. Granddaughter of a professional Italian rider, daughter of a musician father, and a painter mother, Emmanuelle inherited the unconditional love of horses, art, and aesthetics.
The fascination with the balance of forms, lights, and textures is what feeds her, and she expresses it in an amalgam and a mixture of techniques. Her approach to the art is poetic, drawing its essence from the dream, the hope and the determination of the rider, but especially from the splendor and scale of the animal. Whether she is riding or painting, horses are always her medium.
]I love all the Shanah Equestrian products, but what makes me love your brand even more, are the ethics and morals you hold behind-the scenes! Can you tell me more about your environmental initiatives? Why was it important for you to incorporate this responsibility into your business plan? Can you elaborate deeper on the process?
The three of us personally lead very green and minimal waste lifestyles. However, we all know the fashion industry is very polluting. I’ve always been a bit of an “all or nothing” person, and there was no way I could go into this project knowing about the environmental consequences it could potentially cause and ignore the issue. It was clear from the beginning that we needed to put up minimal waste and green measures for the brand, even if it is often more time and money consuming.
There are many ways to implement eco-friendly measures to a company, but here are some examples of what we do:
- All of our products are sublimation dyed. This is a process that helps lower fabric waste and everything is produced locally to our headquarters in Montreal, Canada (also supports local suppliers and economy!).
- We use water-based ink for a lower environmental impact, and our line of sun shirts are made of 100% recycled fabric sourced from recycled plastic bottles!
- Our hang tags and several of our packaging and marketing materials are made of hemp paper, and our poly mailers are made of recycled plastic.
- Something we think is really cool – we’ve recently downloaded an app on our website that calculates the cost to offset our carbon footprint caused by shipping and sends the funds to forest conservation projects certified by Pachama. So, we can be assured that all our shipments are carbon neutral!
You often associate eco-friendly with lower quality and I can assure you that is certainly not the case with our products. The quality and feel is truly amazing and we really hope we can help break this stigma
Actually, some of the fabrics we use and are testing out are honestly the best quality fabrics I’ve personally ever felt and they are all either recycled or natural. We are currently obsessed with hemp; we think it is the future of fashion!
The vision is that 100% of our products will be made of either recycled or natural fabrics and we are currently working very hard for this to be implemented by the end of the year. Experts often say that it is very difficult for businesses to be eco-friendly, but I think that we all need to take the extra time and effort right now for it to become a norm and more accessible over time.
I LOVE that Shanah Equestrian has taken the initiative to create a social impact! Can you tell me more about the organizations you’ve chosen to work with, and explain why you’ve made the decision to donate proceeds? Is there a story behind this decision?
The social impact part of the business was actually the main reason for Shanah in the beginning. What we wanted to create was a business we could use to make a positive impact in society. We want to contribute to a mentally and physically healthier industry and help raise funds and awareness for deserving charities. Behind the glamour and prestige of riding horses lies quite a few deep-rooted issues. For this reason, we’ve decided to partner with three different charities: Brooke USA, Stable-Mind CIC and Refuge Galahad.
With every single purchase made, a portion of the profits are donated to these charities, and we send out the money every yearly quarter. Each charity has different niches. Brooke USA improves the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules and the people they serve in developing countries. Stable-Mind CIC promotes mental health awareness and offers counselling for those with mental health struggles within the equestrian community. Refuge Galahad is a local shelter in Quebec that rehomes abused and neglected horses.
In conversations with successful entrepreneurs, we’ve received a lot of comments like “you need to make money to give money”. But donating and giving back to our community is truly fundamental to us, and there was honestly no negotiation to be made. We want to prove that it is possible to run a successful business with strong social values and contribute to the well-being of our society!
INSPIRED BY THE LOVE OF HORSES
As an artist myself, I tend to use art as an expressive outlet for my emotions. Emmanuelle, do you tend to reflect your emotions in your artwork? Where do you draw inspiration for your work? What do you hope to achieve with your artwork?
Every time I see a horse, in real or picture, my eyes analyze the lines, the proportion, the harmony. Some horses just inspire me. When they play in the paddock or when they execute a movement in sport, I like to imagine the image with exaggeration and amplitude. Sometimes it’s the relationship with the rider, when we see the love between them both. Sometimes inspiration is in the colour, or in the equipment!
Sometimes I will reorganize all the images, and give life to a horse who isn’t real, and other times I will represent a real one, in good proportions etc. But of course, we always feel my personal touch. It will never be hyper realism. I really love to play with forms, colours, collages and light. Because of my technique, often light will change the image. Depending on the time of the day, you will see appear and disappear lines forms. Clients often tell me, Your horse is alive, We feel their souls, They are in movement – it makes me really happy! My painting is sometime at the limit of abstraction and it always contemporary.
My mother is an abstract painter, with an international reputation. I grew up with her, in her studio. I follow her in so many expositions, museums and art galleries around the world. It gave me a lot of confidence with mediums and technique. I also studied visuals arts and media at University (UQAM). My actual dream is to have a huge studio with good light and nature around. Close to my horses. So maybe I will be able to look at them directly when I paint them! And I have so many ideas of art projects I want to do… new paintings, designs, techniques etc… so I tell myself “you better work bi***!” (Hahaha)
Emmanuelle, which piece is your favourite so far? Is there a story behind that piece in particular?
For a couple of years, I’ve been using holograms to add color and dimension. Often those holograms are from a film or music cover, or kid’s puzzles… So it can give me inspiration about the direction of the piece and eventually the title… “Dreams Come True” is a good example.
I have had this Walt Disney’s hologram since forever, and I try so many times to include it in my art. And one day, just like that it fit perfect in this beautiful horse I just made. It was really “à propos” also in my personal life. And it’s fascinating how many people are connected to this piece! Everybody has dreams. Everybody wants their dreams to come true!
I also had 2 big pieces ( 4feetX6feet) representing a young poor, hungry little boy, who takes care of a huge white beautiful and healthy horse. Both of these masterpieces are now in a private collection. Those pieces are really important for me because they are more than a beautiful horse, they carry a message. A deep sensation of injustice, but also a reflection on the dedication of all the people for the horse. And more than that. It goes far, and for me this is contemporary art. Otherwise, when by example, near the end of creating a piece I have an illumination, and with just a touch of colour it changes and gives all the meaning of a piece – it’s fascinating! Like with “Rider’s feeling are the horse’s eyes”, at the end I saw how the solar plexus of (here it’s Edward Gal and Totilas) was totally aligned with the horse’s eyes. I just had a touch of colour to make it happens.
THE PROCESS OF CREATING “WEARABLE ART”
I’m not only infatuated with Emmanuelle’s beautiful artwork, but the craftsmanship and all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into producing your pieces. Tell me more about the process! Are your fabrics and pieces produced in Canada? What inspired you to create “wearable art”? How do you take a painting, and transform it into something “wearable”?
Yes! The products are designed, printed, cut, and assembled in Montreal. Our fabrics, packaging and marketing materials are manufactured in Vancouver! This is a fundamental aspect for us especially with the current crisis – we need to support Canadian economy.
Let’s talk about the process! 🙂 The products are designed by Emmanuelle, then displayed on mockups. We find the best fabrics for each piece and ship it to our supplier in Montreal. The fabric is then sublimation-dyed, which is a process that ensures the best quality printing and details. The ink is blended inside the fiber, which means it never fades nor washes out. It is truly the best process for printed fabrics! It also allows for very minimal fabric waste, and the ink used is water-based for a lower environmental impact. It is then hand cut and sewn by the in-house seamstresses. Then it’s quality check, we add the labels and finally ship to our customers!
Fashion is art, so it is actually quite natural to incorporate visual arts to fashion. You can look at major brands like Desigual that do exactly this – blend art and fashion. There is definitely a growth in the market for unique, one-of-a-kind pieces and we wanted to jump on that boat and be part of the growth!
I am so happy to have found this phenomenal, female-owned, Canadian company. I hope that today’s post inspired you to think more deeply about making mindful purchases when shopping. Think about your carbon footprint, donating to a non-profit organization, the social impact, and the environmental impact you are making. I loved chatting with these lovely ladies and getting to know this brand better. I am so happy that being socially & environmentally impactful is becoming more common in business practices today, especially in the equine industry. It’s definitely one stride in the right direction!
If you’d like to keep up with Shanah Equestrian, you can follow their Instagram page HERE or visit their website WWW.SHANAHEQUESTRIAN.COM! You can also keep up with Emmanuelle Bressan HERE and Alexia Mercier-Lafond HERE. Tally-ho lovelies!