You don’t have to know much about women’s golf apparel to see a difference. Go to the website for LOHLA Sport and browse through a few of the collections and you will quickly say, “I’m not sure exactly why I like this, but it’s really cool.”
That’s exactly the reaction that makes founder and CEO Lisa O’Hurley smile.
O’Hurley (née Mesloh) played college golf at Baylor, grew up in a family in the business and worked at Golf Channel in the pre-Comcast days. She married actor John O’Hurley, perhaps best known for his role as J. Peterman on “Seinfeld” but who has been working on stage and screen consistently since he debuted on “The Edge of Night” soap opera in 1983. John is also an avid golfer, and he and Lisa can be found on the celebrity circuit several weeks a year.
But it’s not Lisa’s celebrity cachet that makes LOHLA work. The brand’s success – and it has been incredibly successful in the high-end golf shop market for a company that only launched in January 2021 – is based on a simple premise and a lot of attention to detail.
The premise is this: women don’t want to change clothes three times a day depending on their activity. A woman wants attractive clothing she can wear to yoga class, to the golf course, then to a late lunch, a business meeting, dinner at a nice restaurant and finally to a school board meeting. O’Hurley set out to create something that would turn heads in all those settings while making the wearer feel comfortable in any activity.
“There are a lot of different tastes,” O’Hurley said. “To say that I fit them all would not be true. But there was a segment (in the golf fashion space) that fit my taste that was missing. I like wearing more contemporary styles. I like bright colors. I like things to fit well. I like a contemporary aesthetic. When I go into Neiman Marcus, there are certain brands that I gravitate toward. I like Paige and Rag & Bone. I wasn’t seeing comparable brands in the golf space.”
If she sounds like someone who knows her way around a retail outlet, it’s because O’Hurley has never known anything else.
“My career in total has been in golf,” she said. “I was raised in golf. My dad was a country club manager, and my mom was a merchandise buyer my whole life. Our family vacations were to the PGA Merchandise Show and the CMAA convention. This was my life. I knew golf and country clubs.”
After Golf Channel, she semi-retired to raise her son (who is now 15) and traveled with John for his career. But the golf bug never left her.
“My husband and I had been playing in the Dunhill Links Championship in St. Andrews – by far, the best tournament I’ve ever been to – and I stumbled across the brand Golfino,” O’Hurley said. “They had a store in the Old Course hotel. I quickly fell madly in love with it because I’d never seen that style in America.
“I asked my mom, and she couldn’t get it because there was no distribution in (the States). For 10 years, I would hoard empty suitcases when I went to the Dunhill Links and I would buy clothes for the year. So once our son was in school, I told John that I wanted to start that business over here.
“That’s what I did. I ran the Golfino business in the U.S. for seven years. In that time, I learned a lot about golf fashion but also about distribution and wholesale accounts and key parts of the business.”
“We rolled out LOHLA Sport during COVID with nothing but sketches. We had two collections.” – Lisa O’Hurley
She likely still would be there if COVID hadn’t changed the world. Golfino sold, and when all the retail outlets in Europe closed during the pandemic, the new owners discontinued the brand. Suddenly, O’Hurley had numerous high-end accounts, a sales team in place and relationships with members at clubs who would show up when she did to pre-order merchandise, but she had nothing to sell.
That was when LOHLA began.
“I knew designers; I knew manufacturers; I knew where we got the fabrics,” she said. “I had paid attention. Over one of our wintery COVID dinners, my husband and I started talking about what a great time it would be to come out with a ladies line because we had all the workings.
“So I called Paul Rees, who is our designer. Paul and I had crossed paths with Golfino. Prior to that he was with Burberry. He and I really got along. He was the first one I called, and it took him about six minutes to say, absolutely, let’s do it.
“He’s based in London with his family, and we manufacture in Portugal, which is a desirable place to manufacture high-quality clothing.
“We rolled out LOHLA Sport during COVID with nothing but sketches. We had two collections. So I called our top 70 accounts (from Golfino) and said, ‘Would you buy this based on just sketches?’ Of the 70 we contacted, 51 of them bought. And that’s how we got started.”
The name is all caps because it’s an acronym. O’Hurley signs everything LOH, her initials. Her son, who was 13 at the time, said, “Why don’t you go with L-O-H-L-A for Lisa O’Hurley Los Angeles?” Lisa looked at him and said, “OK, I don’t hate that.”
Six days later, they had a logo.
But the brand works only because of O’Hurley’s passion to fit women correctly in clothing that is multi-use and that is markedly different.
“It’s golfleisure (which is a subset of athleisure),” she said. “During COVID, I noticed that women were showing up at the course wearing wrong things. A lot of country clubs are relaxing apparel guidelines. At Sherwood Country Club where I’m a member, you don’t have to have a collar and sleeves; you can have one or the other. I saw women show up in T-shirts that didn’t stretch the right way and gaped and didn’t look good when you played golf. So I set out to create something with a thicker, Italian stretch fabric that fit against the body in a nice way but fully stretched when you swing a golf club.
“It also had to fit well for numerous bodies. I’m a size 2, and I have a good friend who is 6-foot-1 and a size 14. I wanted it to fit well and look good on both of us. I also wanted it to cross age groups.”
You can see that commitment in the two professionals O’Hurley currently has in her clothes. LOHLA’s first brand ambassador was longtime friend Annika Sörenstam, who, like O’Hurley, is probably a size 2. The second was Maude-Aimée Leblanc, a long-hitting French Canadian who stands 6-1 and has the shoulders of an Olympic swimmer.
“Lisa’s whole thing is golf lifestyle. That’s what I like about it. It’s colorful. There’s a lot of European style with L.A. flare, which I like.” – Annika Sörenstam
“I was with Cutter & Buck for 25 years, and when my Cutter & Buck deal came to an end, I loved having my own line and being able to display who I am through the clothing, but I’ve known John and Lisa for a long time,” Sörenstam said. “We enjoy them very much. They are just great people. And I am at a point in my life where I want to do business and be associated with people I like, good people that you want to be around.
“Lisa’s whole thing is golf lifestyle. That’s what I like about it. It’s colorful. There’s a lot of European style with L.A. flare, which I like. Bright colors, good fabric, easy to move around in and you can wear them anywhere.”
That last part is why LOHLA is popular. But the first thing Sörenstam said is why the company will be successful.
“We are at a point in our lives where we want to partner with people that we enjoy,” Sörenstam said. “When we go out for dinner, we don’t talk LOHLA Sport. We talk about kids and life and other things. It’s really a great friendship. That’s what I appreciate the most.”
Customers sense when a clothier cares. In a crowded market and a volatile field, Lisa O’Hurley will separate herself because she fits that bill.
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