While we know him as a style guru and reality show host, Carson Kressley is a lifelong equestrian who returns to our state to help raise money for the American Saddlebred Museum and Saddlebred Rescue.
His on-point style critiques and dry sense of humor have made him a household name and media darling. Carson Kressley, one of the founding cast members of Bravo’s groundbreaking Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and co-host of Bravo’s new Get a Room with Carson & Thom, has the travel schedule of a perennially popular media personality-- appearing on red carpets and morning television, and commentating for countless awards shows.
While these gigs often have him dashing back and forth between the two coasts, one of his most frequent destinations is somewhere in the middle… right here in Kentucky. “I grew up in a very horsey family,” the Pennsylvania native explains. “I’ve always been very involved with the American Saddlebred breed and the heart and soul of it is in Kentucky. So, I’ve been coming to Kentucky for years, ever since I was a teen. I have two horses I compete with that I keep in Kentucky. I attend the Lexington Junior League, the Shelbyville Horse Show and the Kentucky State Fair. I’ve been attending for thirty-five years and I’ve been fortunate to win a couple of titles.”
His appearance this month at Churchill Downs to emcee the Runway and Rescue Fashion Show, therefore, is more than a celebrity fly-by. “I love lending my name to causes to help raise awareness, but this is more than that,” says Carson, who has been a board member of the American Saddlebred Museum for eleven years. “This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. I’m very committed to the cause of the museum, which is to preserve the history and heritage of the American Saddlebred.”
He’s excited not just about the cause—but about the fashion and the location. “I’ll be emceeing and hosting. I’ll actually kind of narrate the fashions that we’re seeing from our partner, Rodeo Drive." Those fashions should be truly runway-worthy. “We’re having all kinds of merchandise flown in from Paris and Italy just for the show,” says Michelle Tasman, the vice president of Rodeo Drive, who runs the boutique with her mother, Raquel Koff. “Marchesa is sending us thirty looks. The vendors (including Alice + Olivia, Lafayette 148, Joseph Ribkoff) are all sending us very special things. Our vision for the show is a reflection of our store: shopping is for fun. We are a party. We will translate that to the stage. People should come ready to see beautiful clothes and to have a good time.”
Of course, the location will lend glamour too. Carson is thrilled to be visiting Churchill during the off season. “I love the idea of seeing how cool that venue can be without all the pomp and circumstance,” he says. “It’s a chance to enjoy the place for what it is: one of American’s greatest cultural landmarks.”
As for personal landmarks, Carson recently purchased his own farm in Pennsylvania and he considers it his perfect retreat. “It’s just a great place to escape from the city and relax and recharge,’ he says. This latest home, like his wardrobe, is a tribute to his equestrian upbringing. “I’ve always been influenced by equestrian style,” he says. “It’s something I’ve always lived with and it’s something I’ve always been attracted to. I’m grateful. I could have grown up doing disco. Equestrian style is evergreen and always in good taste.”
He honed his equestrian aesthetic working at Ralph Lauren in New York City, a high profile role which eventually helped lead to his television career on Bravo. It’s a career that is evolving in a new stylistic direction, due to this latest home-buying and decorating experience. “After I bought the farm, I enlisted my friend Thom (Filicia, the decor expert from Queer Eye) to help me decorate,” he says. “I didn’t want it to look like an equestrian theme park.”
The experience of working with his former castmate led organically to the idea for their new Bravo decorating show, Get a Room with Carson & Thom. “I’ve always loved interior design and I feel it’s very much a cousin to fashion,” says Carson. “It’s all about color, proportion, texture and materials. But decorating is a little more scientific than fashion can be and I found that I had a lot to learn.”
He originally attempted to decorate the home himself, and the results looked like a before from one of his reality show episodes. “I tried to do it head-to-toe and I made some terrible mistakes,” he says. “So I was continually calling Thom and he gave me great advice about resources and functionality. I thought that me learning about decorating would be a great show.”
Bravo agreed and signed the pair to create a new series. With the first season of Get a Room under their belts, Carson is hoping they’ll get signed for a second, so he can continue the satisfying experience of pairing with a close friend to encourage people to translate their personal taste and style into living spaces they truly love.
“I feel like I’m very lucky,” he says. “I get to work with people I like and help other people improve their lives too. Some people are good at sports. Others are investment bankers. I love being able to share style and taste with people. I love being able to say, ‘Here are these little things you can do that will make you look, feel and live better. What could be more rewarding than that?”
IF YOU GO
Runway and Rescue, benefitting the American Saddlebred Museum and select American Saddlebred rescues, takes place on Friday, February 15, at 7:00 pm at Churchill Downs Starting Gate Suite. It includes a fashion show with looks from Rodeo Drive, live auction, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres. Tickets are $75 for members, $100 for non-members.
For more information or tickets, go to www.asbmuseum.org or call the American Saddlebred Museum at 859-259-2746.
He’s used to revamping people’s wardrobes and homes. Here’s how he’d spend a range of sums on your closet and dwelling.
“Something trendy from Zara, Marshall’s or Uniglo. A top or pair of pants you can wear for this season and toss.”
“Buy a great pair of shoes or belt.”
“I don’t know if I’ve ever spent that much on any one item, but maybe get a great watch. Buy something you can keep forever that makes every outfit look more elegant.”
“Have fun with accessories. Buy a few pillows; towels, a throw for your bed.”
“Buy a piece of artwork. It doesn’t have to be a huge investment, but something pricey that you can have for a long time. The great thing about art is you can always resell it.”
“Buy a dining room table or sofa-- one of your anchor pieces.”
Sure, it’s early.
But we had Carson’s ear, so we had to ask. Here’s what this equestrian fashion expert had to say about dressing for our city’s big day.
“I think that for most big events that are fashion centric, time is your friend. When you have extra time you can make better shopping decisions. Start the hunt now. The hardest piece to find is a headpiece. It could be a headband, a fascinator, but embrace that tradition and make that the thing that’s special and unique. And once you have that great headpiece, work backwards and find a great dress. Or be more innovative and do jumpsuit or pantsuit and then a great shoe and you’re done.”