Melanie Hunter Yell, mother and entrepreneur, is on a mission to redefine the equestrians wardrobe. Based in Wiltshire with her husband, son Otto, four horses, two dogs and a cat, Mel launched her contemporary brand: Huff Equestrian.
The business has grown from strength to strength creating stylish and technical equestrian wear. Sam Hobden from Haynet recently caught up with Mel to find out more about the personality behind this exciting equestrian business:
You are very passionate about the equestrian world. Were you brought up in this environment as a child?
Yes absolutely. I was lucky enough my parents bought my sister and I our first pony when I was 4 years old. My parents actually met at a riding school when they were 12 years old, so horses are very much in our genes. We had some fabulous ponies when we grew up and were lucky enough our parents would ferry us around the country competing, showing, pony club, pony club games, dressage and eventing. It was our lifestyle and it still is!
In recent years you have set up your own equestrian company. What made you step into this area of the business?
I’d worked in global brand, marketing and advertising for 22 years and as much as I loved it, I love horses more! In 2013, I bought a new horse after a 13 year gap from competing and obviously I had to buy a lot of new stuff! I was spending a lot of money with some of the best brands in the market, yet every time something arrived, I was just a little bit disappointed. Equestrian fashion had not changed in 13 years! And quite frankly it was all, just a bit ‘horsey’.
Over the years out of the horsey game I’d taken up yoga, running and HIIT training and was quite used to having a wardrobe full of versatile athleisurewear and realised that was what I wanted for the passionate, busy and active equestrian.
Tell us about Huff Equestrian and its vision. What are you particularly proud of with your company?
Our vision is to redefine the equestrians wardrobe and design hybrid equestrian leisurewear that shouldn’t just meet the demands of a modern rider, but also makes you look and feel great whether you are on or off the horse. Modern living means our lives and our wardrobes, are less compartmentalised. Having a more versatile wardrobe of comfortable, practical and stylish leisurewear also has a positive impact on the environment as we buy less and mix up our athleisure looks.
Our super stylish Equi-leggings are our hero product for sure. They are fabulously cut, to flatter any shape or size. I wore my usual size mediums throughout my pregnancy and they were the only comfortable thing I could wear towards the end. I still wear the same pair today!
I’m also super proud that we constantly strive towards more sustainable fabrics, products and practices. Our Sweater and Tee collection is 100% organic cotton and make in ‘No Sweat’ factories meaning everyone is treated and paid fairly for the work they do. We also make sure all the print and finishing happens here in Wiltshire to keep our carbon footprint to a minimum and of course all our packaging is recyclable. This is just how we like to do business, not a differentiator.
What have been the triumphs and challenges working within this area of the industry?
The triumphs are definitely getting messages from our customers telling me how much they love our range. Also being able to work with and make lifelong friends with some wonderful people. We obviously work with some super talented professional riders such as Danni Dunn and Holly Woodhead and I’ve made some great friends through working with influencers in the sector and in social media.
The challenges are definitely managing suppliers. That said, when you find a good one and you are working on new products and designs, there is nothing more fulfilling!
Let’s give a shout out for your company! Why should horse owners consider buying from Huff Equestrian?
We genuinely want you to look and feel great whilst you’re doing the sport you’re so passionate about! We all spend a fortune making sure our horses are ‘matchy matchy’, fit and fed well, but we don’t look after ourselves. We owe it to ourselves and our horses to look after ourselves too! We design for our customers and our products go through rigorous testing. We don’t use ‘house models’ for our fittings, we use ‘me’, a shorter than average size 12.
Being a mother it must be hard to juggle a career with your family? How to manage to keep family life and work run cohesively together?
I’m not sure we ‘run cohesively’, to be honest! ;0)
It’s really hard work. As a family, we work long hours. I have a super supportive husband and our little boy is amazing! All of that helps. I’m a massive list writer but don’t always stick to the list and my days are usually managed almost minute by minute. Sometimes you have to let the small things go, to focus on the important things, but that is pretty hard for a perfectionist. And I have to reprioritise all of the time. Sometimes I have to just stop and put my family first. I take regular social media breaks as that can be hugely draining and distracting from my own personal journey.
What would be your advice to a school leaver that wanted to work in equestrian retail?
Oh I love this question. I have lots of strong views about education and how you map your life. But in summary, I’m a huge believer in following your heart and gut instinct. When you leave school, honestly, you don’t know what the right thing to do is. So if you don’t know, you have to do what will make you happy. If you work hard enough, you can achieve anything you want to. And do you know what, if it doesn’t work out, who cares, do something else!
What are your future plans for Huff Equestrian?
We have some really exciting plans for Huff going forward, but much of which I can’t share right now. We’re working with some exciting new ambassadors and have some really great content and community activity coming out soon. Stay tuned!
On a day off, where would we find you?
Unfortunately, I don’t really get a day off right now. Not only do I run Huff, but I still do a bit of marketing consultancy, we have a livery yard and I have 2 eventers to run and two ponies I’m breaking in! But if I did have a day off, I would probably be spending it with my husband, little boy Otto and the dogs – may be a walk somewhere and a pub lunch!
Where do you hope to be in ten years’ time?
We have a beautiful home and yard in Wiltshire, so I want to be right here enjoying it! We have big plans to grow the business internationally. We do have a lot of international orders, but there are some markets that I would love to crack.
Against the Clock
Bays, Greys or Chestnuts: Chestnuts all the way!!!
Gin or Champagne: Champagne
Sunshine or Snow: Sun (although I love to ski!)
Home Counties or Far Away Shores: Home counties
Spend or Save: Spend!
Home Cooked or Eating Out: Eat out! Although I am a damn fine cook!
Music or Film: Can I say ‘boxset’?
Wellies or Heels: Wellies….I’m not sure I remember what heels are??!
Please visit Huff Equestrian: https://www.huffequestrian.co.uk/
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