I have always admired the golf apparel industry. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, because clothing and fashion are in my bloodline. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve watching my dad, George Feldenkreis, build an apparel company called Supreme International, which became Perry Ellis International in 1999.
As someone who’s always lived in South Florida, I have grown up surrounded by golf courses. And for the longest time I tried to figure out how to link golf and Perry Ellis International, but the timing was always off. I wasn’t going to pull the trigger on anything that didn’t make perfect business sense. But when things finally came together, wow! Today, PEI Golf is a major driver of Perry Ellis International revenues. Back when it was Supreme International, my father’s business was a private label distributor located in South Florida, and it was focused mainly on distributing Latin fourpocket shirts known as guayaberas. When I joined the family business in 1980, I helped shift our emphasis from being a privatelabel distributor to being a branded sportswear manufacturer and distributor.
The whole time this transition was taking place, I had my eye on golf apparel. I approached that business facet from every imaginable angle, trying to figure out how we could get our arms around it. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, though, golf apparel lacked the performance attributes I believed it needed. However one company, Munsingwear, eventually started incorporating fabric technology into its golf clothing. That’s probably the result of having been in the golfapparel business for decades.
I mean, anyone who knows anything about golf apparel knows what a huge hit Munsingwear’s iconic Grand Slam knit golf shirt was back in the 1950’s, right? So Munsingwear was definitely on my radar screen, but there was no compelling reason for their company and mine to combine forces in the golfapparel arena. Still, something told me Munsingwear would eventually play a role in kickstarting PEI’s golf apparel business.
Don’t ask me why sometimes you get hunches about things in business. Sure enough, in 1996 we found ourselves with an opportunity to acquire Munsingwear, and you know that no one in PEI pushed harder for that acquisition than me! After it went through, I was ecstatic to finally be in the golfapparel niche.
Since taking on Munsingwear, Perry Ellis International has forged ties with the Ben Hogan, PGA TOUR, Jack Nicklaus and Callaway brands. That’s transformed Perry Ellis International into a name that’s synonymous with golf innovation, forwardthinking style and superior quality. It would be great if I could end this story by telling you I’m a scratch golfer, but unfortunately I’ve never played. Working with the family business, and doing things with my wife and kids, are the areas where I devote all my time.
Something else I got from my dad!
MATT WARD: Given the sheer amount of competition in the apparel area within golf how difficult is it for companies to break away from the clutter and create a clear separate identity that resonates with consumers?
OSCAR FELDENKREIS: As in any industry, creating and maintaining your brand’s identity is always important and faced by several challenges. It can be a challenge to stay consistent with your brand’s DNA with the temptations of seasonal trends. It’s imperative that brands stay focused on their own target consumer’s needs and wants versus trying to chase trends that are not brand appropriate.
MW: How does Callaway designed by Perry Ellis International attempt to build brand loyalty? Focus on three key points:
OF: 1) Produce high quality golf authentic products that are relevant to the brand DNA. 2) Deliver consistency in quality and include technology and performance features in all garments. 3) Anticipate consumer needs – we know what a player needs/wants to perform so we design with them in mind.
MW: How do men and women go about decisionmaking in the apparel area?
OF: While women are the predominant purchasers and decision makers, their needs/wants from a product may vary. Women are looking for comfort with a good mixture of fashion, style and fit – men are more concerned with performance features versus fashionable styles.
MW: Golfers want an ideal marriage between style and overall comfort how does Perry Ellis International address this?
OF: Callaway Golf apparel incorporates technology features that help to marry style and comfort into our products. Performance fabrics are used to enhance the comfort and playability of the apparel and the design is made around that. In Callaway, we developed a group of 10 different performance features we call the OptiSeries: OptiDri, OptiShield, OptiGenic, OptiSoft, OptiStretch, OptiVent, OptiCool, OptiRepel, OptiTherm and OptiTemp. All Callaway apparel includes at least one of our OptiSeries technology or a multiple number of them depending on what the style is being developed for. These features are used to enhance performance and comfort – the style is created around these features to compliment the look of the Callaway consumer, and to stay within the Callaway DNA.
MW: How important is it for apparel companies to have endorsements from those on the PGA and LPGA Tours?
OF: There is no better personal endorsement of a product than from a TOUR professional. Their apparel choice is like a piece of equipment, it’s almost like their 15th club and what they wear shows they believe it performs. These pros are in this apparel 24/7 due to their jobs and it’s important that they feel comfortable and proud of the company which supports them. The player brings the authenticity, while the brand brings the style that allows the player to maximize performance.
MW: Can a brand thrive without such a connection?
OF: While it can be very helpful for a brand to have TOUR brand ambassadors, it is up to us to ensure we are providing product that will enhance the player. TOUR ambassadors create the authenticity for the brand. It’s possible for a brand to thrive without this connection, but most likely not given the competition. You don’t need to have the #1 golfer wearing your clothes for it to be popular, but the longterm exposure and player commitment allows for higher visibility and brand awareness.
MW: A number of companies in the apparel arena have sought to carve out price point areas that can resonate with customers. Is that something Callaway designed by Perry Ellis International is also attempting to do?
OF: When designing Callaway, we develop the line to be ‘golf authentic’. Perry Ellis International is committed to designing Callaway apparel that offers technology and innovation from a fabrication and product attribute, which creates our exclusivity.
MW: Over the last number of years equipment companies have either created or had stand alone apparel companies merge with their efforts. Do you see future such situations like this continuing and to what benefit is it for consumers?
OF: I think the trend that we will see is equipment companies will focus their efforts on the technology of the hardgoods and look to partner with apparel manufacturers to produce clothing. By having a strategic partner that focuses solely on making the best product, with the best technology, the end result is the consumer benefits from the expertise an apparel manufacturer provides.
MW: Describe the profile of someone who buys Callaway Golf Apparel products?
OF: The Callaway consumer is an authentic golfer with a true passion for the game. Callaway products are fit for the man or woman who desires to be not only stylish but comfortable on the course.
MW: What trends do you see happening in apparel in the short and long term?
OF: One of the biggest trends that is taking place is the athleisure movement. Today’s imagefocused society is looking for apparel that is versatile and stylish and can be worn on the course as well as off the course. We have seen the rise of golf lifestyle product as athleisure becomes a common way of dressing. Callaway is a lifestyle golf brand.
About Callaway Golf
Through an unwavering commitment to innovation, Callaway Golf Company (NYSE:ELY) creates products designed to make every golfer a better golfer. Callaway Golf Company manufactures and sells golf clubs and golf balls, and sells golf accessories under the Callaway Golf® and Odyssey® brands worldwide. For more information please visit www.callawaygolf.com.
About Perry Ellis International
Perry Ellis International, Inc. is a leading designer, distributor and licensor of a broad line of high quality men’s and women’s apparel, accessories and fragrances. The Company’s collection of dress and casual shirts, golf sportswear, sweaters, dress pants, casual pants and shorts, jeans wear, active wear, dresses and men’s and women’s swimwear is available through all major levels of retail distribution. The Company, through its wholly owned subsidiaries, owns a portfolio of nationally and internationally recognized brands, including: Perry Ellis®, Original Penguin® by Munsingwear®, Laundry by Shelli Segal®, Rafaella®, Cubavera®, Ben Hogan®, Savane®, Grand Slam®, John Henry®, Manhattan®, Axist®, Jantzen® and Farah®. The Company enhances its roster of brands by licensing trademarks from third parties, including: Nike® and Jag® for swimwear, and Callaway®, PGA TOUR®, and Jack Nicklaus® for golf apparel. Additional information on the Company is available at http://www.pery.com .
Tiffany E. DiPanni