APHA
In Design—Fashion Designers, Trendsetters

One-Woman Western Show

Brit West isn’t just the face of a clothing and jewelry line; she’s a horsewoman who has built a fashion empire from the ground up. And she isn’t finished creating.

Story by Kate Bradley Byars
Photography courtesy Brit West

 

Brit West is on the road, again. She left Jackson Hole, Wyoming, bound for Nevada and Arizona, hauling two colts, a Miniature Australian Shepherd and a store’s worth of jewelry, purses and Western fashions. Work calls her away, but she needs to start her cow horse prospects, so she brings the colts with her as she stops at a fashion show in Las Vegas and then proceeds to Wickenburg, Arizona, for a fashion photo shoot. This designer, photographer and horsewoman takes her work with her because, for Brit, work never stops.

From booths at the National Finals Rodeo to pop-up stores in Jackson Hole, Brit brings her classic flair to functional fashion. Handcrafted jewelry and hand-stitched fashions are mainstays for Brit West Exclusives, a line of Western wear that has captured the fashion world by storm. Brit, however, didn’t start out to be a fashion mogul. The self-described tomboy took the long road to success, and each experience helped shape the formidable woman she is today.

“Turquoise and leather hat bands were first and the line grew from there,” she said. “I’ve had to learn a lot, from buying sewing machines to learning to silversmith. Everything we do, create and sell, I’ve learned to make it. I didn’t go to school for it and I never once considered doing this when I was younger.”

A background in the fashion industry, a desire to work with horses and a spiritual connection to her work, led young Brittain Anderson to evolve into Brit West—more than a fashion line, but the epitome of a Western icon.

Southern Roots, Global Education

Raised in Georgia, Brit grew up riding in the Peach State’s mountains. Her parents, Jim and Julie Anderson, supported her passion for rodeo, gymkhana and everything equine.

“I started riding when I was 6 years old. My mom and I really bonded over horses,” Brit recalled. “We showed gaited horses, and I loved riding in the mountains.”

Though her father always wanted to be an artist, Brit never expressed her artistic side growing up. And fashion never crossed her mind, either; she preferred to ride and play sports instead of dress up. But the gritty tomboy grew up, and at 18 she ignored her father’s hopes for a doctor/lawyer daughter and instead exchanged her childhood of dusty boots and open fields for the high heels and bright lights of the fashion industry.

“I always did the opposite of what he told me to do, my dad will tell you,” she said. “I signed on with a modeling agency and went to work overseas as a fashion model. I worked in Taiwan, Japan, Greece, South America and Spain. I experienced different cultures and got behind the camera.”

This experience would come in handy when Brit launched her own fashion line, but that idea hadn’t yet crossed her mind. Instead, she was homesick for a simpler life and dreaming of getting back to her roots and to horses.

“I started to feel empty,” Brit said. “I wanted to do something purposeful with my life. I felt like I had more talent and creativity. I prayed to God to show me what to do with my life, and all I did was dream about horses.”

While living in Spain, Brit contacted outfitters in the Western United States to inquire about potential job opportunities. When one ranch in Durango, Colorado, replied, she left Spain to pursue her Western dream. It was the first step toward what would become her true spiritual calling and life’s work.

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This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2018 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.

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