In its never ending search for quality products made in China, Nicely Made in China met Nicole Bernard, the owner of Longma, an Australia-based equestrian equipment company that makes all its products in China. From Tennessee where she was born, to Alvie (pop.60) near Melbourne, via Beijing where she spends half of her time, Nicole has traveled a long way. She stopped by at the Bookworm in Beijing to talk about her passions for China and horses, and how these two passions recently became intertwined.
Nicole, can you tell us how you started Longma?
A year or so ago my riding coach -Chris Smith 1980 Australian Olympic show jumping rider- came to visit me in Beijing- , and while discussing the equestrian market in Australia we realized it is bipolar: you either find very high end and very expensive gear or cheap junk. Horse riding is called the sport of kings and it is an expensive hobby. People who spend a lot of money on a horse care about what they put on their horses’ backs. I thought that hard-working people who love riding deserved high quality equipment at decent prices and that’s what Longma has been trying to provide for a year now. While I will not compare Longma with Australian master saddle makers, I can say that we’re trying to achieve a level of quality that these people respect.
What type of products do you make?
For horses we make bridles, saddles, leather halters, brow bands, bell boots, and cool ice boots, and for riders we make hand-stitched Spanish leather gloves, custom-made calf skin riding boots and leather chaps. In all, Longma carries a range of more than 20 different products and we’re always on the lookout for new ones.
What kind of leathers do you use?
It depends on the product: our saddles and bridles are made of Italian and Spanish calf skin and are German designed – which in the equestrian world means everything. Our boots are made of Korean leather and are made by the bootmaker who makes boots for the Chinese provincial and national equestrian teams.
Where do you make all these products?
All over China! I have screened over 100 factories, visited about 40, from Liaoning to Guangdong, and we are currently working with 12 of them. I personally go to the factories on a regular basis and work with the management and the design and quality control teams to ensure that our customers get the products according to the specifications they ordered. Visiting regularly the factories also allows me to get a good insight into the working conditions as we are strong supporters of ethical labor practices.
Can you give us the prices of some items?
Of course, a pair of custom made boots cost AU$ 620 (US$ 570 / 447 Euros / 3873 Rmb / HK$ 4425 / 368 £), our saddles which are designed and made for the German market come in 3 styles -jumping, dressage and all purposes. They cost AU$ 3200 ((US$ 2952 / 2326 Euros / 20,000 Rmb / HK$ 22,940 / 1914 £). They can be made in two different colors with an adjustable gullet to fit perfectly your horse’s withers. The gloves cost AU$ 60 ((US$ 55 / 43 Euros / 375 Rmb / HK$ 430/ 36 £) Prices on September 9th 2010 and subject to variations.
Where can interested NMiC readers buy Longma products?
The easiest is to email me: email@example.com . Longma is building a network of boutique retailers in Australia and our products can already be found at those two shops: The Tack Room in Colac, Victoria (+61-3-5232-1246) and The Horse In the Box (+61-3-9735-9717) in Lilydale, Victoria.
Nicole’s China mobile number: +86 135 01 15 11 75
Nicole’s office number in Australia: +61-2-5234-8247