I worked for Diesel between ’90-’96 and n ’95 I felt I needed a break; I started to dream of having my own brand after having contributed enough to the success of Diesel. I rebuilt my Harley Davidson into a chopper and decided to just drive to Italy from Stockholm. I had been playing golf since 1975 and was an avid golfer so I decided to bring my new Callaway/ Big Bertha with me. I stuck the club underneath the saddle of my chopper.
I drove through France and to some of the best golf courses. I rented clubs and played. At one point I’d been driving for three days in a row, and was really dirty when I cruised into the luxurious Royal Hotel in Evian. I was wearing my deerskin, tassled, white-leather jacket and a military-style helmet. The conservative people were shocked– they thought Hells Angels was arriving. But I went to the spa, and the next day I walked down the stairs wearing my argyle sweater, my white FootJoy shoes in my hand and the hotel staff couldn’t believe it.
It was at that moment I felt I really had an idea for a new brand. To combine golf and rock’n roll fashion. The same night I watched Jesper Parnevik winning Trophée Lancome in Paris. He beat Colin Montgomerie in the playoff. Jesper was wearing pleated, washed-out chinos and a sloppy, oversized cotton shirt with a flat collar. His curly microphone haircut had him looklike Bobby Ewing from the “Dallas” television show. In that same moment I decided to contact him and turn him into Steve McQueen.
MATT WARD: You started J. Lindeberg in ’97 and then left for a period of time. Now you’ve returned. What was the reason for leaving and now returning?
JOHAN LINDEBERG: I left in 2007 as I had many investors and felt creatively blocked. It’s the normal balancing act between art and commerce — always a challenge. I never thought of going back again but JL called me in June of last year and I was really surprised. We talked for a few months. Stefan Engstrom told me he could take the brand to one level without me — and another with me. My daughter Blue loved the idea and I felt passion to go back and support the brand in the next phase. JL is a very well-organized company today and it’s great as I can take a creatively free role which suits me well.
MW: J. Lindeberg presented at the ’16 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando this past January – what was your assessment of the mood of those coming to your booth for the golf season ahead?
JL: I had a great time and was overwhelmed by the love in returning to my namesake brand. It was great to be at the show again. But I was quite surprised that more hasn’t happened — most brands still look very much like JL 10 years ago.
MW: How does J. Lindberg separate itself from the array of clutter that pervades the apparel category?
JL: It’s a great advantage as we come from fashion into golf. It makes us unique and we need to use that strength. I think we need to establish the fact that we changed golf apparel and dare to show more attitude again.
MW: You use the term “modern elegance” and “pushing boundaries.” Define what you mean for each.
JL: I use the work chic a lot — I think it has a sophisticated mood to it. But we need to challenge the establishment with more attitude. But I like to inspire in one way more than protest against another. It’s a big difference.
MW: In percentages – what is the breakdown of your sales via green grass shops, on-line and retail outlets?
Roughly — 40% green grass, 40% online and 20% retail.
MW: How do you gauge customer feedback?
JL: Customer feedback is great — but in some ways it’s even more powerful to listen within ourselves. I never would have changed golf apparel if I listened too much to the market. Everyone told me between 1996-2002 that it was impossible to change the look of golf. Fortunately I was very stubborn and did it anyway.
MW: Has customer feedback ever influenced a future product development decision and if so how?
JL: I think it is great to listen to people who don’t like golf — as they see it from a more interesting perspective — they mostly associate golf with a conservative establishment.
MW: Do endorsements from a PGA, European or LPGA Tour players matter in terms of product credibility to consumers?
JL: I think it is important to show we are serious in golf. And I thought it was even more important when we launched JL. Jesper Parnevik was my muse and without him I don’t think we would ever have been taken seriously. When he won Byron Nelson in pink pants year 2000 things started to change.
MW: Best advice you ever received and from whom?
JL: My daughter Blue — who’s 15 — She is the one I listen to the most. When I had a big break about two years ago she told me to write down everything I had in my mind in this book and then we burn it in the fireplace. It took me a big step forward.
MW: What’s the biggest challenge ahead for J. Lindeberg and what steps are you taking now to deal with it?
JL: The holy grail of JL is our great challenge and our great opportunity. To package all our parts, fashion, active wear, ski and golf to one inspiring lifestyle — one strong international voice. We’re here to inspire the world with our modern lifestyle.
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