Kyoko Shimada Yamaji & Lavallière

When 22-year-old Louis XIV saw the horse-riding silhouette of Louise de Lavallière for the first time, he found himself caught in his own trap: while she was supposed to be used as a decoy to hide the secret love affair the King had with his brother’s spouse, Louise finally appeared to him, with her blushing cheeks, as a genuine Diana the Huntress. Seduced by this contrast of passion and fragility, the Sun King-to-be immediately made her his mistress and settled her in a hunting lodge. As Kyoko Shimada was searching a name for her equestrian brand released in 2010, Count Reynier Pozzo di Borgo’s idea to name it Lavallière emerged as an obvious choice. “I wanted a name that sounds very French and which refers the Incroyables and Merveilleuses (Incredible and Marvellous).”

This pre-urban movement from the end of the 17th century care freely created extravagant new clothing styles for people to parade in town or go hunting. Kyoko considers them to be the first rebels, the first freaks, the beat generation of their time. “I find in them a hippie yet modern spirit, which is very inspiring”, she explains. Lavallière is thus a hybrid brand, “riding” in-between the two cultures of its founder Kyoko Shimada, born in Paris in 1976 from a Japanese mother (fashion designer Junko Shimada) and a French father (Façade Magazine founder Alain Benoist).

For her, horse-riding is deeply connected to traditions, as elegance needs to become one with performance, and has then to be modern and nomadic. The horsewoman as Lavallière conceives is a world traveler who can cross time zones as easily as hurdles during competitions. Her luggage must consist of light, breathable, resistant, and yet chic and refined clothing. This athlete knows how to comply with her discipline’s constraints, but knows also to keep up with her time. Sharing her life between the stud farm and the city, her playlists features Bach’s cantatas as well as the latest ASAPRocky. “I wanted to cross the barrier that separates the horse riders from the public, and offer a daily equestrian sportswear collection that I like to see as a kind of crossover between Nike and Chanel” she explains.

When she’s creating, Kyoko works passionately with certain patterns, in collaboration with artists such as Nicolas Ouchenir, Henry Thomas or Laurent Fétis. Her creations can be divided in sports and fashion lines that keep responding to each other like the two sides of a medal. After sharpening her skills managing Junk by Shimada for 10 years, she now seeks excellence, trying to raise Lavallière up to the perfect marriage between high technology and craftsmanship. “I’m obsessed with fabric” she says. “I can’t help touching them before doing anything else and I always end up choosing the most expensive one”. Kyoko Shimada dreams of a future where horses will be running again in the streets of Paris, Tokyo or Los Angeles, and, as she is already working on a new collection designed for men, we have no doubt that the modern heirs of Louise de Lavallière, who are as incredible as marvellous as she was, already found their wardrobe.