It’s the little things… one pair of shoes and a whole lot of lifestyle

With Burghley well and truly done and dusted, the touring spectacle that is Eventing has moved onto Blenheim. Despite the awful weather on Saturday, Burghley was a great success, with the publication that I developed, with uptown E Store, ‘A little Book of Burghley Style’ receiving some great reviews from readers and the brands that were involved. If you have yet to read it, I’ve embedded a copy at the end of this blog.

A featured brand was Fairfax and Favor, who I’ve been working with since their early days. It has been wonderful to see Marcus and Felix develop their product and brand identity. From small stands at their local event Burnham Market, to showstoppers at major internationals and the likes of The Game Fair. Knowing how hard it is to work these events, keep stock levels up to scratch as well as running the business itself, their shows schedule is beyond impressive. The team will have earnt a well-earned break after Olympia in December!

I’m sure many of you are familiar with their famed tassled ‘Regina’ boots, always seen at trot ups and a country girl’s staple footwear. As I said in the Burghley magazine,

‘It’s definitely not a case of what riders will be wearing Fairfax boots at the horse inspections… but who won’t be!’

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Fairfax and Favor have now established themselves within the eventing and country markets, with some exciting news about brand ambassadors on the way, so keep an eye out for that. Their social media channels are on point with huge followings and almost cult status amongst their customers, who are now not just the country set, but city dwellers wanting classic shoes, that are stylish, classy and comfortable. With the business rocking, and my marketing head on, I set about thinking what makes customers ‘come back for more’ and what makes new customers want to purchase their own little bit of Fairfax and Favor.

So what was my conclusion? Well, in my opinion it’s all about the detail. At Burghley I purchased a new pair of driving shoes, the new style Henley’s. You can read about them here

They are a slightly different shoe from the classic Drivers launched last year (I’ve lived in mine and they are part of my everyday wardrobe on the farm and in meetings… and obviously for driving!). The Henley’s are more refined ‘smarter’ style, with plaited leather detailing, the classic drivers grip sole which makes you feel like you are walking on air, stippled rubber across the outside of the heel which means the shoes aren’t worn away or damaged when you drive. I’d say a smarter, more ladylike version of the driver. There are also little details like the metal ends on the ties and a really smart Farifax and Favor shield stud on the heal. Subtle branding that suits the shoe. Speaking to Felix Favor Parker at Burghley he positively gushed about this new detail, telling me of the trials of finding a manufacturer to get the logo ‘just right’. It’s this attention to detail and careful consideration that really makes a difference and keeps customers coming back. With a few new designs launched every year – from bags, to purses and new boot designs, the brand keeps a fresh identity, but still is very much Fairfax and Favor.

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One of the biggest treats (for a packaging geek like me) is receiving a delivery. This is where the brand gets things ‘just right’. Open the shoe box – it slides open like a draw and you want to keep it just for that… and you see two beautiful navy dust bags with gold embossed logos. I’m maybe a little OCD but I’m a sucker for dust bags. Why not look after your treasures well? Next is a lovely navy branded envelope containing a beautifully printed catalogue – because you will be thinking of your next purchase already right? A lovely hand written note hoping my shoes will fit perfectly – a lovely touch! Then two A5 ivory, gold embossed cards, one inviting you to the list of events that FF will be attending, and to stop by for a drink or two – well who wouldn’t? And another inviting FF fans to tag the brand their Instagram images, with a customer every month winning a £250 in store credit voucher for the ‘best Fairfax & Favor photo’. Simple marketing, stylishly executed and totally fitting with the brand.

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It’s this quality detail, working with a great manufacturer to keep stock levels up to scratch and the quality high that makes the Fairfax ad Favor work. Using all the best bits of tech, in a classic way to keep the brand faithful happy. Add to this excellent customer experiences on-stand or online, plus the ability to have your order arriving the next day. It is true to say that Fairfax and Favor are here to stay and with marketing and an attention to detail they deserve all the recognition they have received.

To find out more visit: www.fairfaxandfavor.com

 

 

A Rookie Journalist’s Guide to Surviving the #MMBHT media experience

My good friend Sarah Skillin and I were lucky enough to be awarded Badminton Press pass this year. It was great to have this opportunity so we could cover the action at Grassroots and the 4* competition for Eventing World Wide, our own website ‘The Bit’ and for the social media group #TwitterEventing. 

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Sarah was able to arrive earlier in the week and wrote a great Grassroots round up for EWW http://www.eventingworldwide.com/mmbht-grassroots-championships-2014/ and we were able to cover trot up fashion, with Sarah in presence, sending me images remotely that I could comment on – a total double act. From that point on it became apparent that we would have to work as a team in order to cover the huge amount of research and social media reporting.  

After dropping off my kit at a friend’s lorry, my home for the next few days, we headed over to the media tent. A huge, smart marquee based in the heart of the Badminton complex. I exchanged my media ticket for a proper pass and signed in, was issued with a wi-fi code (essential as the locality is such a rural no signal area) and a lunch ticket – so no need to leave our desks and buy food later.

After setting up base(basically you hot desk and bag a spot) and logging on we thought about our first plan of action. Despite planning ahead we were slightly overwhelmed as to what to start with. In hindsight it would have been great to have had a larger team, sending people out taking style photos, walking the course and interviewing riders. But there are a limited number of passes that are issued so we decided to cover specific areas, not overlapping with the ‘big guns’ who would be focusing on things like live tweeting of dressage scores and reporting the big news.

As the sun decided to shine in the afternoon we set off to meet Rhea Freeman who is the PR rep for HiHo silver, a superb jewellery design company who was exhibiting at Badminton. It was great to talk directly to the company owners and really understand their products and design ethos but also see their customers and get an idea of what appealed to them. Badminton, for many is about the shopping as well as the event and we used our time to gather some new contacts and meet in person companies who we highlight via social networks. 

More writing, image editing and sharing followed and a constant look at the leader board with some interesting results. Following the end of competition each day there is a press conference where members of the press can ask the leading riders about their performance and hopes for the competition. At this point the BBC, fronted by Clare Balding, arrived and it was interesting to see some behind the scenes action and get an understanding of all that is involved. 

We had a great evening at the Outside Chance bar, chatting to Nico Morgan, an old friend and leading equine photographer. We talked about how he was planning to set up to get winning shots the next day and what publications would be looking for. It was great to get an understanding of this commercial element, and ultimately what will help to sell magazines.  

Saturday arrived and the various global press teams arrived at the media centre looking pretty worn out already, and definitely bedraggled by the wind and rain. The tent felt like it was about to take off at times and reports were coming in from around the site about blown over portaloos, not to mention the changes in going, caused by overnight rain… would the optimum time be changed? Would fences be removed? 

As an avid people watcher it was great to take five minutes to look at the press room in action. Listening to assorted languages, journalists deep in thought about how to convey the action scheduled to take place… real anticipation. We never would have anticipated what carnage would happen that day. After walking the cross country I understood the enormity of the questions and it was hard to even imagine riding the lines, but I couldn’t have guessed the outcome of the day. The press room was alight with live tweeting, draw dropping moments and total adrenalin. Togs coming back to upload images, radio and film crews flying about interviewing riders. It reminded me of my days working in a well-known restaurant kitchen… one false move and the whole thing goes into meltdown, get a tweet wrong and you pay for it. Above all the speed at which news is posted globally is amazing. There is no room for error and speed is the key, an hour old tweet is now yesterday’s chip paper. 

Writing this now on Sunday morning, with all to play for in this afternoon’s Show jumping I wonder what the outcome will be. I’m sure there will be tears shed and lots of collective gasps. So good luck to all the riders who have certainly earnt their places and not forgetting their amazing rides, as without the horsepower this spectacle would never happen. 

Tired, and slightly emotional we can look back on our few days with real joy. Amazing memories and such an opportunity to share what we were observing with the outside world. So thank you MMBHT… massive thanks to the generosity of the sponsors Mitsubishi Motors UK, Julian Seaman and his amazing press team and all those who looked after us so very well…it’s been a great one!

 

 

 

All smiles at Burnham Market

 I decided that I wanted my 3rd event back to be at 90 level so I could work on my speed and larger, more technical xc.

We headed off to Burnham Market in Norfolk, a really lovely venue set in rolling hills on old turf.

As expected Wanda warmed up for here dressage very well, although slightly sharper than normal as she had just been clipped out and there was a cool breeze. Our test was ok, although I have to say I wasn’t entirely happy with it. Since having my baby ive found Im so weak in my core that its hard to ride as strongly as I want to. It felt average and I was quite annoyed at myself.

Feeling a bit fed up I headed out to walk the XC. I wouldn’t rate it as a first 90 course. There were 7 combination fences and some really nice natural permanent ones. I really liked it and it was good to have some hills and good galloping stretches. On the way back to the lorry I checked the scores and to my surprise I had scored a 28 in the dressage and was lying in second… that will teach me to get annoyed with myself!

The showjumping was twisty, up to height and a really quality course to jump. Wanda warmed up well, getting quite excited as she really does enjoy her jumping.  My game plan was to ride a forward round, positive shots in, asking for changes (which we had been working on at home) if required. Ive also got a tendency to sit left and drop my left hand so Im constantly battling with that so I can make Wanda as balanced as possible. From fence 1 Wanda and I jumped a really confident round. Positive work although we sadly had 2 fences down. I also made the stupid error of turning left instead of right into the last line of fences – a definite ginger moment! To be honest though I was really pleased with my round, I rode positively and Wanda jumped well… I just need to manage to engage my course remembering brain with the part of my brain that works on what im feeling and reacting to when jumping my horse.

Next up was the XC… In true Nikki style I was a bit nervous. I don’t do waiting  around very well and I get really restless. Thankfully I was able to change boots and clothing and was soon making my way up to the xc start. Wanda decided to get quite excited at this point and we had lots of propping and sideways action in the start box which always makes me laugh. She was an absolute delight to ride round. Dealing so well with the combination fences and jumping more boldly every time we run. She really instils confidence in you and I always come back with a big grin.

Sadly we picked up a few time faults xc and with our sj fences down we were out of the running for top 10. However, we had such a great day out and I think our performance was greatly improved. Not a great day on paper but we gained a lot of experience. We are looking forward to eventing at Brooksby Melton this weekend in the BRC BE80T Championships. At this event I’m blogging for BE so look out on their website http://www.britisheventing.com/ for updates and information about the competition.

Dressage Regionals for Diva Wanda

Fortunately my sons birth went very well and I was lucky enough to feel quite fit and strong. As I had British Dressage regionals 4 weeks after the baby was born I was keen to get back on and had my first ride 4 days after I gave birth. Initially I had to be very careful as I was still quite tired and had lost a lot of core strength. At first I was worried that I wouldn’t make dressage regionals, let alone jump a fence again. I had a tough few weeks adapting to having a new baby, making sure my other children were well cared for and also beginning to focus on my riding and fitness. At first I took things very gently but I was soon able to work on my strength by having a few lunge lessons which really helped to re-engage muscles and work on my balance. I initially just focused on the dressage regionals and did my first BD competition 2 weeks after Bobby was born – winning on 71.25%. Bit of a shocker to say the least. I didn’t fare as well at regionals and came 19th out of 43 horses. Despite this I was really pleased with my performance. There was about 2% separating 19th – 6th and I think that I rode the best test I could have at that time. With the dressage out of the way my next goal was to start jumping and aim for Milton Keynes BE 4 weeks later!

 

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