Do you remember the pants you were wearing the first time you broke 80 or won the club championship? Lisa O’Hurley is hoping to ensure you will with her new premium women’s golf apparel company, LOHLA.
O’Hurley has spent a lifetime in and around golf. Her father was a general manager for several ClubCorp facilities and, although she called numerous states home as a youth, attended a prep school in Texas that had the No. 1 ranked girls’ golf team in the nation. Former LPGA major champion Grace Park boarded at the school, where a nun coached the girls’ program and players like O’Hurley spent half their time in class and the second half of the day on the golf course. It was “a breeding ground for golf,” she says, noting she worked her handicap down to almost scratch before playing collegiately at Baylor University. O’Hurley was one of the original employees at Golf Channel, where she was a favorite of co-founder Arnold Palmer, and spent 10 years at the network running sponsorship sales and helping negotiate tour television contracts. She later joined German golf apparel brand Golfino and began the company’s U.S. business. O’Hurley even got engaged to her husband, actor John O’Hurley of “Seinfeld” fame, at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California.
Indeed, Lisa O’Hurley has a longtime love for golf, not to mention a passion for fashion. And while starting a business during the pandemic might not seem like the most fortuitous timing, it was ideal for O’Hurley and LOHLA, which she describes as trendy European design with a Los Angeles flair. When the coronavirus first hit, Golfino sold its brand to a London retailer called American Golf, which ironically had no interest in the U.S. market, and O’Hurley saw the writing on the wall.
“I had built a really solid business for Golfino in the U.S. and now had to call all of these customers and say there’s not going to be any product,” she said. “I started talking to customers and hearing from members about how upset they were about this, and then our largest competitor in the space, Tory Burch, decided to pull out of green grass as well. So, our customers were pretty much going to be left with no choices. It took me about 48 hours to come to the conclusion that I had to save the ship.”
O’Hurley first called her favorite designer from Golfino, Paul Rees, who had also worked with brands like Burberry, Louis Feraud, and Aquascutum. She had a sales team ready to go, maintained a space with a production facility in Portugal, and kept a loyal list of customers. In August and September of 2020, O’Hurley reached out to 80 of her top U.S.-based Golfino customers, and, despite having no samples and a limited collection of line sheets, 61 of them bought sight unseen.
“What was abandoned by Golfino during their sale, I kind of snuck in there and took it,” said O’Hurley. “We have a very similar style as Golfino, but it’s decidedly more American.”
LOHLA, which recently made an unlikely appearance on a racecar at the Indianapolis 500, has a modern, contemporary look, with streamlined silhouettes that O’Hurley says intended to flatter the figure, though they’re not tight to the body. The company is currently selling five full collections for the fall. While O’Hurley has the fashion background, so does her husband – of a sort. John O’Hurley for four seasons played the memorable role of J. Peterman, who sold clothes through a catalog with a unique literary style.
And there is one definitive nod to Seinfeld with LOHLA’s best-selling product, “The Very Pant,” which for years has been running joke in the O’Hurley household.
“There would be an elaborate story and he always had a funny way of talking, so he’d joke about the ‘very pants’ I wore while trekking the Himalayas or meeting the Queen,” Lisa O’Hurley said. “We took that and decided to name the basic pant, our top-selling item, and it’ll be a marketing tactic we’ll use for years. Whether it’s breaking 80, winning the club championship, or on vacation in Newport, part of the allure of LOHLA is that you can wear it to work, to cocktails, to yoga… They’re stretchy and transitional. The ‘Very Pants’ is John’s own touch.”
For now, O’Hurley is focused on keeping the business streamlined, spending dollars and time efficiently. LOHLA is sold primarily in pro shops and a few boutiques in upscale, golf-rich markets such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Texas and a bit in New York and the Carolinas. Sales for 2021 have already surpassed expectations and the company has yet to delve into the online business, which is still to come.
Even with John’s support, men’s apparel isn’t in the cards for LOHLA, although O’Hurley aspires to venture into girls’ clothes.
They say timing is everything. And while 2020 was an unlikely period to start a business, it turned out to be an ideal time for O’Hurley, whose charmed run in golf also once included a hole-in-one on a par 4.
“I couldn’t have done it without the designer, the customers in place, the sales team in place,” said O’Hurley. “As horrible as the pandemic was, it gave me a little time to work on it. I was working sun-up to sun-down in the preparation of this — how we were going to do this and how we were going to get investors. I needed that time to prep. And I wouldn’t have noticed the need for it without the pandemic. It helped that I was also dealing with an industry that was marked safe. People were shopping at their country club and members want to support that club. So, talk about lucking out in terms of where your customers are.”
In years to come, some of them may even look back and recall the “Very Pants” they bought during the pandemic.
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