Course of Style: New Nicklaus apparel

Thursday September 9th, 2010
Jack Nicklaus by David Chu

The Jack Nicklaus golf apparel collection, which is undergoing a complete facelift and revival, debuted this month under the creative direction of its new designer, David Chu, best known for creating and building the billion-dollar Nautica sportswear brand.

Buyers and press got their first glimpse into what Chu is up to with the reconstituted Nicklaus brand — one of the most powerful in sports but kind of sleepy for years — in Las Vegas last week at the PGA Expo. The high points:

1. Fine sportswear detailing Whether it be covered button plackets, with a contrast fabric lining, or the intricate fabric banding in a golf shirt collar. Chu is an expert at the little details that firm up the plot.

2. Cotton Where the emphasis in recent Jack Nicklaus clothing collections had been on performance polyester, now it has shifted to performance cotton, including something Chu calls "ultra cotton," a super-lightweight, interlock knit (for "give") fabric with an exceptionally smooth and buttery finish.

3. Classic stripes and solids No piping or color blocks to speak of, but lots of vivid colors (like "mint julep").

4. Logo shift The Jack Nicklaus signature replaces the Golden Bear logo in most cases and typically goes on the shirt sleeve instead of the chest.

The Jack Nicklaus line, formerly produced by apparel giant Hartmarx, had been in flux while the parent company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeded last year. Meanwhile, Chu and the Nicklaus family formed a joint venture to take the Jack Nicklaus brand into the future.

"We had a great conversation," Chu said of his meetings with Nicklaus. "We spent a lot of time talking about what he wanted to achieve."

HMX, the successor company to Hartmarx, will handle U.S. distribution while David Chu Design does the design, production, and marketing. Spring 2011 will be the first complete collection, for men and women, designed by Chu, who is, by the way, a serious golfer — we know, we've played with him a couple of times — right now about a 5 handicap.

"Golf is my passion after Nautica," Chu said.

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