Lamitie, Élevée deliver right fit
Monday, October 12, 2009
Not long ago, being known as a maker of golf pants put you in the professional company of Phyllis Diller’s makeup artist and John Daly’s nutritionist. “Golf pants” was shorthand for “dated,” “tacky” or “ghastly,” and, at two words, among the world’s shortest jokes.
So, have you heard the one about Élevée Golf’s custom-made slacks? They’ve been worn by more than 200 Tour pros who – get this! – pay for them. Retail, no less! You know you’re onto something when professional freeloaders – sorry, brand ambassadors – reach for their wallets.
Élevée’s profile was further elevated last week, when it served as an official apparel provider to the U.S. Presidents Cup team.
The man responsible for Élevée’s rise is Rickey Lamitie. A precocious fashion plate, he got his start at age 23, cold-calling Denver businessmen offering to design and manufacture entire custom wardrobes.
It wasn’t long before Lamitie, now 51 and Élevée Golf’s president, created his own successful firm, David Rickey & Co., whose celebrity-studded client list included former president George H.W. Bush, Magic Johnson and his famously dapper coach, Pat Riley.
Custom clothing is by its nature a labor-intensive, detail-oriented enterprise that’s part retail and part manufacturing. Eight years ago, Lamitie decided to create a software application specifically for his business. He spent more than four years and a half-million dollars of his own money developing the platform, which among other features allows returning customers to create and order spiffy new pants with a few mouse-clicks.
Once the software was completed, the question became what to do with it. A friend who was a minority owner of Roger Dunn Golf Shops in California suggested that golf presented an untapped market.
“He said there was nobody out there making good slacks for golfers,” says Lamitie. “I started doing research and realized there really was a void.”
Through contacts, Lamitie (who plays golf, albeit “poorly,” he says) met the tournament director of the Champions Tour’s 2005 Toshiba Classic and gained locker-room access. Some 20 pros, including Ben Crenshaw and Ray Floyd, bought pants. As soon as they were delivered – something that can be done in as little as 48 hours, because Élevée is now soup-to-nuts made in America – they came back for more, and other pros followed.
Lamitie next got his PGA Tour locker-room credentials and made his debut at the 2005 Byron Nelson Classic.
“For the three days I was there, I literally had guys lined up all day waiting to get measured,” Lamitie recalls.
In 2009, the Élevée logo made its Tour debut, with fashion plate Tommy Armour, Fred Funk (owner of 60 pairs), John Merrick, Kevin Streelman, Mark Wilson, John Mallinger and Bubba Watson among the company’s 23 staff players.
Angel Cabrera won the Masters in Élevée slacks, and likewise Pat Perez, Jerry Kelly and Mark Wilson for their ’09 titles. Élevée: The Titleist Pro V1 of trousers.
You generally can tell an Élevée pant by a signature angled, buttoned back pocket – though the client also can choose flaps with button through; flap with tab button; piped; piped with button; welt; welt with button; or none. (Lamitie recommends that one back pocket have no button or flap, for easier access to the yardage book or scorecard.) Then there’s the pleating (five options); the waistband (metal hook, button or extended tab); the pant bottom (golf slit, cuff or plain); the lining, watch and coin pockets (mercifully, simple matters of yes or no); and, of course, the fabric material and pattern (almost endless).
Such personalized slacks hold obvious appeal to players used to finely tuned equipment delivering optimized spin rates and launch angles – to the point where they’ll pay $295 a pant, or $395 for the patterned tropical wools. When a tailor asks your foot size to calculate the ideal width of the pant bottom, you’re in good hands.
“It’s hard to pay $400 for pants,” says Mark Wilson. “But the variety of stuff is incredible. And they’re custom fit.”
Lamitie often sits down with players to go over their upcoming season’s shirts to create matching pants.
“The pros understand that we’re providing a service to them, a customized product,” says Lamitie. “It’s not as if we’re selling them a stock pant. This is something different.”
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