MODERN ARTISAN: Jill Slater of RIATA Designs

MODERN ARTISAN: Jill Slater of RIATA Designs

January 08, 2018

 From female side-saddle riders during the Victorian area to contemporary grand prix professionals, riding garments and accessories have been constructed to fulfill specific purposes including freedom of movement and enhancement in performance. Today, designers for almost every sport have integrated technical innovation and also melded style with function …think Lululemon for yoga or Nike for women’s running. Equestrian sport is of no exception. This is the point where I get on a very high horse. SUN PROTECTION in the form of hats cannot be overlooked as an important part of your stable wardrobe.

I am the first to admit that I am a true Generation X and baby oil was a go to product to achieve the perfect tan … but now we are all paying the price with effects on our skin. I literally walk around lecturing my friends and family to wear long sleeve SPF shirts, mineral sunscreen, sunglasses and HATS!, published advice from New York milliner Patricia Underwood titled “Hats, stylish and sun protective. Underwood explains, “ In protecting our skin from the harmful effects of the sun, a hat truly fulfills its role as an object of beauty and practicality. “

  • A wide-brimmed (3-inch or greater) hat covers places where it is difficult to apply sunscreen, i.e., the scalp as well as places where people often forget to apply sunscreen, such as the tops of the ears and the back of the neck.
  • When you're wearing a hat, your face has more protection than with sunscreen alone.
  • A hat will shade your eyes, protecting its delicate internal structures and keeping you from squinting in the sun.
  • A hat in the summer can help keep you cool.
  • Hats are attractive and fun. (1)

There is one brand of hat that stands out across the show grounds and that fills all of the above requirements: RIATA. Founded by equestrian Jill Slater, this former Bay Area news personality and high-end florist is known for using her professional expertise to create personalized hats and visors that capture a unique look using input from each client. The end result is protection from the sun in the form of a stylish hat that you WANT to wear because it is created just for you. Not to mention, a great look after we take off our riding helmets!





Four years ago my hunter/jumper trainer asked me to create a few hats for clients showing at HITS Thermal.  She gave me the hats and ribbons.  Being a former floral designer, I just had to embellish with additional trims, flowers, pins and horsey objects of art.  These hats (soon to be RIATAS) were a hit.  Lots of people, including a vendor, wanted custom RIATAS. A business was born. 


RIATAS are more than a big brimmed hat.  They are a way to express yourself in your own personal style.  RIATAS give excellent sun protection and are certainly a fashion statement.  All are hand made personally by me. RIATA visors are also one of kind and an option to let you be you. 

Some RIATAS are simple but many are full of detail... zippers, grommets, charms, rhinestones and layered fabrics.  I try to capture a mood or a person's personality in a hat or visor.  Well, they are NOT hats or visors, they are RIATAS. 
















I have been in retail literally all my life. Growing up in small farming community in central California, where my father had a small department store, birthed my retail journey.  Honestly, at times, I just need to stand among retail to feel good, it actually soothes me.  Okay, that may sound pitiful, but I literally grew up in my dad's store.  You could find me wrapping gifts, loving the alteration lady, Zelda, who smelled of yummy Jergen's lotion, following the window dresser around, sorting the jewelry or in the shoe department bugging another employee. It was a playground of fashion and fabrics.

As an adult, I owned and managed my own flowers shop for nearly 20 years. Blossoms, in busy Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, CA. became my passion and I enjoyed teaching people how to easily arrange flowers in their own homes ( I became a spokesperson for the San Francisco Flower Market, blossoming in to various TV gigs including a regular Good Gardening segment on  ABC 7 News, San Francisco.  I was also lucky enough to appear many times on Home and Garden Television and many other TV and radio appearances across the country. Sunset Magazine featured many of my flower and garden designs and how to's.  

As the years progressed and the economy changed the TV career dwindled, but I actually was ok with that.  I now had more more time for my husband, animals, friends and time to pursue another goal, horseback riding. The years in retail and reporting gave me insights in how people work, how we all think. While perhaps an old message... "The customer is always right," it's still my way of doing business. If your RIATA isn't satisfying in some way, let me know, I'll make it right.

Creating RIATAS is the best job I've ever had.  I love seeing people wearing them.  Sun protection is super important to me.  Currently working for a facial plastic surgeon as a medical assistant, you soon see first hand, it's important to protect your skin from the sun!  Not to be preachy, but please wear RIATA and use sun screen. 


I am inspired by YOU. " Be You"  is my RIATA slogan. I listen to my clients reactions.  Recently, I created a "Rodeo"  RIATA for a friend who loves purple and a cowboy retro look. Cowboy prints wrap around a RIATA hat...Very Cowgirl Cool and everyone loves them.


I came to the Hunter/Jumper world as an adult. My most generous and supportive husband encouraged me to pursue my horsey goals and I got hooked. I am sometimes an AA rider and other times stick to the 2.6/2/9.  .  




INSTAGRAM: @riatadesigns  


ORDER A CUSTOM RIATA: Visit or email. Turn around time is usually 2 weeks, but if in a big rush, I'll rush your RIATA!

SOURCES : (1) Published on February 21, 2014, Updated on May 14, 2016 Downloaded July 2017

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