We have had the pleasure of reviewing Antigua apparel for a few years now and we always walk away pleased. We were fortunate enough to have special THP logo shirts made by Antigua and the feedback has been incredible. The embroidery work is flawless and the shirts are the usual high quality fabrics we have come to expect and love from Antigua. I was fortunate enough to talk with Ron McPherson, President and CEO of Antigua Group. They just celebrated their 30th anniversary and after 30 years they are still putting out some of the finest golf apparel on the market. Below is my interview with Ron.
THP: Can you tell us about the Antigua Brand and what separates it from others?
Ron: Well, Antigua is a longtime brand and we have been in business for 30 years. We are a genuine golf brand in that we started our business taking care of the small golf shop, the golf professional, and the golf industry. That separates us to a great degree being in the industry for that long. We are also a brand that is in the sports business with Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, Colleges and Universities, and then of course we have a corporate arm as well. So we have been around a while, 30 years, and we are a diversified distribution channel.
THP: We just had some Antigua polos made with our THP logo and the feedback is just phenomenal. Can you tell us some more about your embroidery department?
Ron: We have a very good embroidery division and we do all of our own artwork and digitizing here. We embroider anywhere from 7,000-10,000 pieces a day in our plant. We work really hard, not only on the apparel itself, but if you put a decoration on the apparel and it’s not very good than it’s a reflection of the entire product so it has to be every bit as good as the apparel.
THP: What challenges arise when working with new materials such as the bamboo and the new Desert Dry Xtra Lite?
Ron: One of the key things that we always do before we introduce any product in the development stage is that it has to be compatible for the decoration process. Sometimes we can get into some fabrics that can be pretty fragile and sometimes because of the nature of them being fragile the needle and thread that is embroidered into the fabric actually breaks down the fabric. So we have to be careful in the development process and then now and then we have some fabrics that we actually use a treatment, called Solvay, during the embroidery process. It looks like a clear plastic material and it is laid down onto the fabric and then we embroider into that material. It is water soluble, hence the name Solvay, and that holds the stitches up because sometimes stitches can fall into certain tops of fabrics. So we do a lot of different things and tests to make sure that the embroidery is going to be compatible to the new fabrics that we introduce.
THP: How were you able to make the Desert Dry Xtra Lite so lightweight without being sheer?
Ron: That is something that we have been working at for a while and we just introduced it this year in several of the styles for Spring 2010 line. We worked and worked and worked at it. It is 150g weight which is our line of demarcation so that is our weighing process when you punch out a piece of fabric and weigh it. Most of the Desert Dry’s that have been in the line have been 155g to 160g to 165g, right in there, and it’s still lightweight but we found two or three fabrics that would work at this lighter weight and we introduced then and they have been well received. Certainly there will be some consumers who still prefer a little bit more weight and a little bit more drape in their garment and we provide those as well in the standard line. So it’s just been expanding the consumer base with some lighter weight fabrics. It has been a hit for us and we are really thrilled.
THP: We know you have the function with the great lightweight Desert Dry Xtra Lite but how has Antigua been able to incorporate both Fashion and Function into their design choices?
Ron: We have a design team headed up by Sean Greg who’s got a tremendous amount of experience and he has been with us for 5 years. He has a top notch designer that he brought on board named Danielle and she focuses a lot on the women’s product. So what she does it takes the functionalities that have been developed in the fabrics and adds the flair with her design ability. Being a female designer with the ladies products she has really turned the corner for us on our ladies line. This year’s spring line for Antigua, depending on the style, are already sold out. We really had a great response and we are well ahead of last year as far as our ladies line is concerned. She created three beautiful collections with distinctive color patterns and everyone of them is very pleasing. With a concord group, a blue group, and a group that has kind of a fuchsia feel to it and they all tied into a birch color which is a neutral eggshell color that runs through the entire collection from the standpoint of the jackets that might match with the vests or the shorts, etc. It’s just been terrific.
THP: We absolutely love the design she did with the subtle argyle pattern. It’s a timeless piece.
Ron: You know, argyle is golf. Look back at the golfers from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s and you will see argyle. Some are more subtle like the ones we did this time because we were determined to make them more subtle then the bold argyle has been a staple design for a long time.
THP: Antigua has historically has a more traditional or American cut. Meaning not very fitted and a with a little more flare in the waist. How do you go about choosing the sizes and fit of the apparel? Also, with the ladies line have you considered offering smaller sizes?
Ron: We have and as we expand and get stronger in the ladies business that question will come up to a greater degree. What we try to do in women’s products specifically is try to make a product that will fit the vast majority of women. You know that you are not going to fit everybody because women are very discriminating shoppers, they have a huge variety of products to choose from in retail from all the department stores to the specialty stores, so when you are talking about a golf line you can’t hit every taste and every size but you do your best to hit the highest statistical average as far as the sizing. And while we have a lot of younger women who wear our product, the average age of women who play golf is 30 and older so you have to factor that in to some degree as well. Sizing is always on the table when we are putting a line together.
THP: Recently you added an online retail store. Can you tell us more about that?
Ron: Sure, primarily for the 30 year history of Antigua we have put somebody else’s logo on our product. Weather it be a golf logo or corporate logo that has been the service we have provided along with the apparel. But as we have expanded our fashion offering, both men’s and women’s, and expanded the technology as far as our fabrics are concerned, we have found people that would like to buy Antigua as Antigua without the decorations. So that was primary motivation a boutique together online. So now that consumer who had his club logo or his sports logo or whatever on their clothing would now have access to Antigua without an embroidered decoration on it. It is in it’s infancy, we have been up and running since the fall of 2009. It’s a nice vehicle for the consumer to find that Antigua product that he/she has been asking for.
THP: Antigua has a few bottoms, both men’s and women’s, but for the most part you seem to be more of a top and outerwear company. Do you plan to expand the clothing line by adding more bottoms in the future?
Ron: We started with the women’s line because if we couldn’t just have tops for ladies. Women tend to be discriminating shoppers and they often want a full outfit so definitely we have expanded to have a nice skort in the line, a couple of pairs of shorts for the women, and now we are taking the same approach for men. For the men it’s more with shorts then with slacks but as time goes along and as our fashion component continues to grow we will test some slacks in the men’s line. But because most of our fashion goods are sold in our golf business it appears, at least with the data I have been looking at, that shorts are still a bigger component then the slacks are.
THP: That makes sense. For those in colder weather climates they don’t often play during the colder months and for those of us who live in places like Florida or Arizona we wear shorts pretty much all year around.
Ron: If it has shorts underneath it is a skort. There are definitely golf skirts (with no shorts underneath) in the industry but we have chosen skorts because we feel the female golfer appreciates the skort.
THP: As a female golfer I definitely appreciate the golf skort! A lot of companies have started going trendy over tradition, is this something Antigua might do as well?
Ron: I think that while we will test some looks and test some fabrics we look at who the golfer is, both male and female, from the standpoint of the demographics and what the vast majority of them are going to wear. So our cuts will always be a little fuller so that people can play in it. I know right now there are several very fine brands that are selling a much tighter cut that are designed for the Camilo Villegas’s of the world but how many Camilo Villegas’s are there? That is the real issue so you see lines that make beautiful apparel but they are designed for people who are in top notch shape and the vast majority of the golfers that are out there before are not Camilo.
Ron was such a pleasure to speak with and his knowledge and passion of the golf and apparel industry is quite remarkable. The new designs from the 2010 line are phenomenal and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for the future. As mentioned they have launched their new online store and you can find all their latest items. You can also view their homepage here. I would like to thank Ron for taking the time to chat with me and I hope we can do it again soon.
Your Fashion Guru