A new club approach attracts
Chicago-based Jennifer Glaspie launched Aphira golfware to create apparel for the social golfer who wants to excel on the green, not fit in at the club.
by Carolyn Schwarz
When rookie golfer Jennifer Glaspie was thrown off the green at a Florida golf club for wearing a sleeveless, collarless sweater, little did she know that women’s golf apparel would become her life’s passion.
From the track to the street
In 2000, Glaspie, a successful corporate business consultant at the prestigious Chicago-based firm Baine & Co, began learning golf at the request of her boyfriend (now husband). But as her golf swing improved, this petite, style-savvy urbanite discovered that her clothing choices didn’t.
“Golf apparel is way behind the fashion curve, and options for the fashion-conscious golfer are limited,” he says. But it was a crisp October morning with an impending tee time and “nothing to wear” that finally pushed Glaspie into action.
Convinced that there was great potential in a high-end line of women’s golf apparel that was modern and comfortable yet sophisticated, Glaspie put her career on hold and used her MBA from Kellogg to develop a business plan to launch a stylish line. of golf clothing for women. wear.
“I’ve always loved fashion, but I thought going into the competitive apparel industry would be crazy,” recalls the 32-year-old Michigan native. However, the research showed that while the apparel industry is cutthroat, high-end niches such as beachwear and specialty sportswear have their own, more accessible and less competitive market. “I found some cutting-edge lines that were doing well, but the market certainly wasn’t saturated, so it was all pointing ‘forward,'” she says.
Glaspie and her contrarian designer, Cassy Clark, set out to create golf apparel that was fun to wear, modern, and a little bit sexy, hoping to succeed. And they did.
Aphira debuted at the 2005 PGA Merchandise Show in Florida. “There we were walking pretty much three miles back to our little booth past these huge corporate booths,” recalls Glaspie. “We were totally overwhelmed, but from the beginning, people started saying great things. One woman said, ‘I love this line, this is my favorite line out of 1,000 exhibitors. It felt promising. We felt really, really good.” .
The duo wrote dozens of requests on the show for their first line. And when their initial customers received their shipment and loved it, they began to think they might have something. “One customer said people were buying it right out of the box before he could put it on the shelf,” says Glaspie.
Now in its third year, Aphira is established in nearly 150 golf shops in the United States, Europe and Asia. But success didn’t come without a few missteps.
“I thought we had to be really different when we first launched,” recalls Glaspie. The debut line was sexy and edgy with form-fitting tops and tennis culottes. “But we’ve toned it down a bit as we’ve gone along.” The style change reflects the company’s research into who buys its stylish line, which in many markets was retired in the 1950s and ’60s.
“Nike and Addidas design sportswear for the athletic golfer,” says Glaspie. “Our client is more of a socialite than an athlete. She doesn’t play four times a week, she plays with her friends on the weekends, and she’s always a groomer.”
Like many entrepreneurs, Glaspie is an owner, marketer, sales representative, and even a model. “Once, in a meeting with the owner of the pro shop at the Ravinia Green Country Club, I ran over and put on a pair of shorts to show the customer how they fit,” she says Glaspie. Each piece in the line is manufactured to your size for product testing. “I need to try everything on. I swing a club around it. I’m a golfer and I know how functional the garment should be.”
The Aphira line is manufactured entirely in the United States. The fabric is custom dyed and shipped to a factory on Chicago’s North Side for assembly.
For now, Aphira’s clothing is only available in pro shops, and that’s just fine with Glaspie. “We need to stay focused on the golf market. We know every dollar invested will return a few dollars in the golf market, but it would take too much capital to break into the larger apparel retail market.”
Although you won’t see Aphira in department stores, you may catch a glimpse of her on Golf Channel’s popular reality show The Big Break: Ladies Only, which will feature Aphira gear on golfer Valeria Ochoa this spring. And the new Hollywood movie “Who’s Your Caddy?”, billed as “an urban version of the golf comedy movie,” features a sexy character who is used by Aphira throughout the movie.
The risky career leap from guiding the strategic growth of Fortune-500 companies to making golf skorts definitely paid off, says Glaspie. “It’s just been a whirlwind, but I’m definitely having fun. In consulting I’ve had peaks and valleys and good weeks and bad weeks, but when it comes to your own company, your ups and downs are really high and your lows are really low. Everything acquires so much more important when it’s yours.”
Callout or framed element:
Aphira: a-scary-ah. A word invented by golf apparel entrepreneur Jennifer Glaspie taken from the Latin word ephiro, which means to exult.
Can fashion attract more women to golf?
While it may sound superficial to say that the latest golf gear will get more women to play golf, Jennifer Glaspie, owner of Aphira women’s golf apparel in Chicago, says it’s absolutely true. “I have a friend who I asked to take some golf lessons with me, but she told me, ‘I play tennis because the clothes are nicer.’ Having more fashion in this sport does change its image”.
Just take a look at internationally televised women’s golf tournaments such as the Lexus Cup, where teams led by Annika Sorenstam and Grace Park opted for the men’s polo shirt for fashion designer golf wear to project an image fun and modern for women’s golf.
And younger players, like the tank top-wearing Michelle Wie, are bringing their youthful attitudes and free spirit to the green, and that includes their fashion statements.
“There are a lot more young people doing this sport,” says Glaspie. And with youth, he says, come new ideas that break with tradition and set a new style.