The only pure apparel player among the big sportswear companies, Puma Golf, is reprising and expanding its nationwide "Puma Open" fashion events, beginning this weekend with a tournament (of sorts) at the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Of the big three sportswear companies that make golf productsNike, TaylorMade-Adidas, and PumaPuma is the only one that does not make clubs. Therefore it does something a bit different from the usual "demo" day events sponsored by the equipment makers.
The Puma idea is to hold offbeat tournaments at golf clubs around the country, featuring nine-hole scrambles, non-traditional golf holes (like the Lucky 7, which makes players use a 7 iron for the entire hole), followed by dinner and Vegas-style card games. The faux opens are held in various cities (15 this year, up from six in 2008) to acquaint golfers with the Puma line of clothing, footwear, and accessoriesand just to have fun. Anyone can come, and all skill levels are welcome.
Golfers buy tickets to play$300 per foursome, or $75 each. Even if the course is private, the events are open to the public. Participants are offered a 20-percent discount on Puma products sold in the club's pro shop or nearby Puma stores for several weeks leading up to the tournament.
Although the analogy is not perfect, such events are reminiscent of the longtime fashion industry tradition of "trunk" shows, in which a Seventh Avenue designer packs his or her latest seasonal collection in a trunk and appears around the country at various high-end retailers, like Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman-Marcus, to acquaint the local socialites and big spenders with the latest styles and move some merch in the process.
Many top fashion designers have depended on this business, not just for sowing good will but also for solid sales volume. Bill Blass and Donna Karan, for instance, generated millions from trunk showsnot to mention attracting a kind of customer loyalty that could not be bought with advertising. Is this what Puma is trying to accomplish?
"It's not about how many polos we sell," said Bob Philion, the global business unit manager of Puma Golf. "We do sell on site. At certain events we move some product. But it's more of an event to support key partners." That is, it benefits the pro shops and retailers who sell Puma clothes and presumably have great sell-through during these tournament days.
The events also establish good will with consumers and educate them about the Puma golf collection, which since its inception in 2006 has tended to be somewhat more colorful and fashion-forward than the other golf brands, but with a similar emphasis on performance. Puma-sponsored professionals include Geoff Ogilvy and Erica Blasberg, who will be on hand at the Las Vegas Puma Open on May 29.
"It's all about building a base," Philion said.
For schedule and information on the Puma Open, go to thepumaopen.com.
GLAMOUR ON THE GREEN
There is nothing especially glamorous about most golf clothes. After all, they are sporting clothes, meant to be worn outdoors in an athletic way. They are utilitarian garments, in which function necessarily precedes fashion.
Nevertheless, the sport itself is inherently stylish and always has been. It has always attracted a certain level of "name" designer interest. Currently, there are a handful of designer names associated with golfRalph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and Alexander McQueen (for Puma)but aside from Lauren, who has a full-scale golf collection, these are all small operations.
One potential glam spot is Stella McCartney, the British fashion designer, who has been collaborating with Adidas on several sports collections for women. In her second year designing golf clothing, the Beatle daughter and former Chloe designer combines traditional English tailoring details with a hip, feminine spirit.
Highlights for this season include a jacket made from a weatherproof fabric originally developed in WWII and worn by RAF pilots because of its watertight and insulating qualities; stretch golf skirts with box pleats and tee-holders; funky combat pants with pleating; and performance Vauhti golf shoes (based on the Adidas Driver shoes) with brogue details.
"The performance elements come from Adidas, the style comes from Stella," said Lyn Famiglietti, a spokeswoman for Adidas in New York. "It's definitely a fusion of performance and style." McCartney works through the offices of the Adidas parent company in Germany.
Celebrities like Naomi Watts have been spotted wearing the McCartney golf clothes (but not on the golf course). No LPGA players are currently wearing the styles. Adidas executives were not 100 percent certain, but apparently McCartney does not play golf.