In the past 10 years, as celebrities have taken over the Cotswolds, Cheltenham has become a chance for fashion-conscious country types to show off a different category of glamour.


 Edited  by |ANNA sam

  Life & Style  section -  CJ journalist

London - March,15,2023


    Whether it’s old family twills or nouveau country labels, the fashion at this meet is keeping stride with Ascot

 The Cheltenham aesthetic, dubbed “rural vogue” by regulars, is not in the least bit affected by mainstream fashion.

The look is unique, and especially distinct from that at other meets. At Royal Ascot, the scene can look a little like a sweet shop, its audience washed in pastels and fruity brights. At Cheltenham, the color du jour is glorious mud.

Caroline went ‘all in’ with her outfit choice CREDIT: Paul Grover

An upscale browny-green coat should be the focal point of any spectator’s outfit – trenches, capes, and blazers are all permitted. Once your outerwear is secured, it’s simply a case of accessorizing with further sludgy-hued items – suede boots, a top-handle bag, and a pheasant feather cap will finish the look perfectly and, crucially, feel practical in the iffy March weather.

There is also a brilliant amount of faux country impostorism happening. Those who, like me, are in it for the day out – if Matt Hancock, Gareth Gates, Carol Vorderman, and the cast of Love Island can pop on a herringbone jacket and fit in, surely anyone can?

“It’s not about what you spend, it’s about enjoying the sense of occasion,” a local who visits annually tells me. The truly posh wear the same clothes every year – it’s something of a brag to say that, if your jacket smells a little musty, it’s because it has been in the family for generations.

Over the past few years, the Shopping Village at Cheltenham has evolved into something of a retail destination – as integral to the experience as the betting and a fizzy lunch at Alberta’s Run. Some 58 country-focussed British businesses set out to entice the 470,000 attendees during the four-day event.

What they sell isn’t cheap – it’s quality wool clothing and suede boots and handbags, mostly made in England. But here they have found their audience; In 2022, on average, each guest at Cheltenham dropped an astonishing £697 during their visit.

“Starting from £35, we have something for every budget,” the founder Jade Holland Cooper says proudly.

Her Cheltenham-based label is one of several new British brands that has made a fortune by betting on fresh interest in the heritage look. Holland Cooper launched her business on the eventing circuit in 2011, with a stall selling tweed miniskirts at the Badminton Horse Trials.

In 2022 she reported sales of £22.7 million. Customers book their personal styling appointments at her Charlton Kings flagship boutique as early as January to ensure they are race day ready. For some niche retailers, Cheltenham is one of the most profitable events of the year.

“We see a huge spike in revenue in March which isn’t far behind the Christmas period,” explains Alice Leet-Cook, co-founder of millinery label Hicks & Brown. Leet-Cook’s feathered caps are, indeed, everywhere in the stands. When the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Edinburgh become valued customers, word spreads quickly around the country cliques.

“Cheltenham gives an incredible opportunity for shoppers to see our clothes on ‘real models’ walking around the racecourse and to gain inspiration,” says Parker of why being caught in the moment makes people want to shop on the spot.

“We did roughly 500 orders at Cheltenham last year, with the average order value coming in at £170. Our Regina boots are our hero product, along with our boot tassels.”

Lots of brands launch new products exclusively at Cheltenham – Fairfax & Favor is selling its new outerwear here for the first time. Carol Vorderman, on Wednesday, wore a Sienna cape that we can assume she bought off the brand’s stand on Tuesday.

“British country heritage style is so popular worldwide,” says Parker.

“When we set up shops in locations like Stow-in-the-Wold and Helmsley, we thought we would reach a new local audience. And we did. But we underestimated how popular quintessentially British villages and heritage buildings are as hotspots for international tourists.”

 

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