In 1987 I decided to restore an old house in Marciaga, a village overlooking Lake Garda, and make it my new home. In the close vicinity, I saw a driving range under construction.
As a serious professional athlete – I had been part of the Italian national ski team as a skier and later as a coach – I considered golf until then as a kind of exotic pastime for elderly, snobbish people, but was intrigued by the opportunity to try it. As soon as the driving range was completed, I went there and hit my first basket of balls with an iron that is still “glued” to my hands.
I could not conceive that this “pastime” and the act of hitting such a small ball posed such a challenge, but when the ball flew — after many baskets of practice balls and some rounds on the course, I knew golf was the game for me. Not because I had become a champion, but just because the game had thrown down the gauntlet and I readily took it up.
At the time, together with my brother Manfred, I already owned Chervò, then a successful business in outdoor and skiwear arising from my first sport passion. Looking at my fellow golf players, I wondered how people belonging to middle or even high classes, could come and play with clothing probably dismissed from their casual wardrobe for being obsolete for fashion or wear and tear. The more image-conscious might have tried to dress like British country gentlemen. Golfers were telling me that there was no technical requirement for playing good golf other than freedom of movement.
I was perfectly aware of the many innovations in sports clothing introduced in the 1980s for having pioneered the trend for my ski and outdoor lines and I thought that golf, after all, was not so different from other outdoor activities, since a round of golf is performed in the open air in all seasons for some five or more hours under changing, and sometimes, severe weather conditions.
Based on my observations I decided, without undertaking any further market research, that it was time for Chervò to enter the golf business. The first product that I thought could have been the “killer application” to golf was rainwear, since golf competitions are not stopped in the case of rain, but the clothing available was either not fit for the purpose or too noisy and creaking, hence interfering with a smooth swing. In association with a leading fabric manufacturer, I developed a fabric that was light and silent, yet fully waterproof and breathable at the same time. AcquaBlok was born and the resulting rainsuits led toChervò’s first major success in golf.
A number of other technical fabric developments followed for playing in different extreme weather conditions, and in wind, cold or high temperatures. Being an Italian, I could not ignore our heritage of stylish and refined designs, so introduced the “Chic-Tech” concept. A number of competitors adopted this same direction, claiming to sell products that are both technical and fashionable, but we are not only the originators of the trend, but still running fast ahead of them. One of the outstanding examples of this is Chervò’s DryMatic technology with unmatched moisture management proprieties.
MATT WARD: Over the last several years golf clothes have taken on a new and different presentation. What’s theChervòapproach in handling golf clothing for men and women?
PETER ERLACHER: Our vision is that performance can be combined with beauty. We never considered fashion and performance as two conflicting criteria, but it was something that was not so obvious in the early 1990s when we launched our golf range. Although many competitors followed this strategy, the never-ending research of colours, innovative fabrics, accuracy of detailing and shapes combined with our love for the game and its functional requirements allowed toChervò to keep its position as the leading “Chic-Tech” brand.
MW: The best thing a woman can do when deciding upon clothing for themselves is what?
PE: When a woman looks for a sport outfit, she does not want to give up the pleasure of wearing something that enhances her personality and style, while giving her the comfort and functionality she needs for the best performance.
MW: The best thing a man can do when deciding upon clothing for themselves is what?
PE: Performance comes in the first place for a man, but is always accompanied by the need to be recognised by fellow players for mastering the game, both in technique and etiquette.
MW: How do you solicit customer feedback?
PE: We have constant interaction with our customers by directly managing a number of stores, whilst we also monitor the feedback that we receive from our online customers. We encourage distributors in countries where we do not distribute directly to do the same and report to us any suggestions or claims raised by our consumers.
MW: What roles does customer feedback play in future plans in clothing development?
PE: We mainly use customer feedback for improving our existing products; real innovations are usually introduced by our creative people, who are both passionate about golf and constantly in contact with yarn and fabric manufacturers for pioneering new technological opportunities and new fashion trends, something that the consumer cannot even imagine.
MW: Are the key organizations / associations in golf doing enough to attract new players to the game — specifically Millennials?
PE: Millennials are born “multitaskers” and want to do everything provided that each activity does not pretend to monopolize their time and money. Shorter forms of the game and more flexible forms of association to golf clubs should be considered.
MW: What advantages does an Italian-based company have versus American or other locations when producing clothing choices for both men and women?
PE: Italians are recognized for their style and expected to be different, therefore, they are allowed to set new rules.
MW: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
PE: Never stop being curious.
MW: You attended this year’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando — was the event helpful and what was the overall mood from what you gathered for the golf season ahead?
PE: The Orlando PGA Show is a unique window on what goes on in America, and to a more limited extent, in the rest of the world in the golf business. The industry is not growing globally as in the past. This will increase competition both among brands as well as at retail level.
MW: What trends — short and long term – do you see happening in golf apparel?
PE: More competition will result in more polarization between moderately priced and premium brands, and between larger off course retailers and pro-shops. Proshops will survive only in better clubs or resorts that can offer a more selective choice to their customers.
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