Q&A: Abacus’ Sven-Olof Karlsson

It took some doing, but we tracked down the man behind the Abacus brand, Sven-Olof Karlsson, to ask him a few questions. You may be surprised at some of his answers. It seems like we have a lot of great fairway fashion from Abacus to look forward to next season!

Tell us a little about yourself and the Abacus story. How did the brand come to be?

The inspiration for Abacus came from a long history in the golf industry and the need for more fashion-orientated Scandinavian design, combined with really good functionality. That is how the idea of the brand started. We spent four years collecting ideas, sourcing fabrics and testing products before introducing our first collection. When Abacus launched, we decided to extend the name to “Abacus – count on it.” You can count on an abacus, and you can also count on Abacus apparel in terms of function, design and quality. The slogan became a commitment for the entire staff in a wider perspective. Our mission is to make sure our customers can count on our clothing, as well as the people working for the company – at all times.

Can you tell us what Abacus has in store for 2011?

The inspiration for the 2011 Abacus spring/summer collection originates from the Swedish archipelago. The wind and the sea. Clear colors. The clothes are stylistically simple; something that blends in but also stands out. The Abacus spring collection comes close to the clarity of Scandinavian nature, with just one addition – color. Based on all the shades of the Swedish islands. The result is elegant. Extravagant. We have a strong focus on golf apparel that first of all works extremely well on the golf course but also has a unique functionality and a relaxed Scandinavian look. New environmentally friendly fabrics using coconut, coffee and bamboo are taking more space within the collection. Our most unique category is still the lightweight, extremely stretchy and unbelievably breathable waterproofs. It is an outerwear program far beyond most other waterproofs in the market. It even keeps the best players happy and comfortable in difficult weather.

What sort of colors and styles are you planning to surprise us with?

Spring 2011 is based on a wide palette of colors but ones that are subtle enough for consumers to appreciate. Pink, light blue, white, bright red for men together with the basic colors, mainly black, dark gray, navy and khaki. In the ladies collection, you will find an exciting yellow to brighten up white, light gray and dark gray. There is also the marine palette, which includes ice blue, navy, cobalt and white. To that adds begonia and light pink.

A few unique styles really stand out: for example, our ladies Lanark trench coat. It is waterproof and windproof at the same time, as it is fashionable and classy. Another item is the ladies Bollina polka dot jacket. A lightweight, water-repellent wind jacket in a classic polka-dot pattern. High in function, high in fashion. This is an item that will for sure be seen on the golf courses for the upcoming season. Another bestseller that has been extended is our Cleek series of stretch bottoms that we offer in trousers, capri, shorts and skorts on the ladies’ side. The product is windproof, water resistant and stretchy. Another extension on the men’s side is the Hillside program. This classical chino also hides a great function; they are stain resistant. Wear it on course or off course; it works great either way.

How has the Abacus brand has been received in the U.S. since the January 2010 launch?

We have had a tremendous response from the U.S. market, especially in our first year. We are focusing on building the business, creating a strong relationship with the right number of customers. It takes time to build a good team of reps as much as it takes time to build a good team of partners, in any market – so much more in a huge market like the U.S. Our ambition is to create happy partners, so we’d rather take the time to properly build the business than rush into it. We are making a positive difference, and we get a lot of buyers telling us so.

We would love to hear about your Solheim Cup outfitting experience. We heard that you were recently chosen for the third year in a row as the clothing provider for Team Europe. Is this true?

Yes, it is true, and we are very proud to earn the honor once more. Especially as it is based on the players and captains being so happy with the outfits the first two times. The European team is a great group of people. We are not only proud to be chosen, but it is a lot of fun for all our staff. The players are honest and fun to work with, we learn a lot and they are part of our development. And at the same time, we get a lot of appreciation for the collection and our work from them. They know what is working on the golf course, and our people know how to put it together in fit, details and colors. It is a great cooperation. We are currently at Killeen Castle, the site of the 2011 Solheim Cup, completing our photo shoot for the autumn/winter 2011 catalog.

Do you think, with what happened at the Ryder Cup, that Americans might steer away from the Abacus brand out of loyalty to our team?

No. I am more surprised they have not yet contacted us. They seem to need a waterproof they can trust and play golf in. The Ryder Cup proved you cannot give away points in the beginning if you want to win the match. Honestly, I think it is great to see the variety of clothes in events such as the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup, Olympic Games, etc. Golf is such an outstanding sport, and it is made extra special when you turn it into a team effort. The clothing is about much more than just looking the same. It is about performance. Dress a team, and you will know. So loyalty to good apparel is important.

What PGA/LPGA tour players can we see sporting your brand on a regular basis?

At the moment, we have got Richard Johnson and Louise Stahle playing regularly on the PGA and LPGA. Johnson won the Scandinavian Masters that was being played at BroHof GCC in Stockholm, Sweden, this summer. We get many inquiries from tour players in both the U.S. and Europe. We are happy about that and plan to increase the number of tour players in the “Abacus Team,” but we need to proceed in a way where we can be a good partner with them.

There is talk that you plan on venturing into the lifestyle brand. Is this true?

We are a golf lifestyle brand. On and off the course. Function and fashion. You should be able to perform well on the course as much as in your leisure time. Good clothes are special to wear, both on the golf course and the daily life. There is no border. Abacus is much more a combination of the two. It is a Scandinavian lifestyle, with a focus on golf.

Do you have any other exciting news with Abacus that we should know about?

We are very excited about the new cooperation with the English Golf Union. Abacus will dress the English amateur national teams for the next four years. This is similar to how we dress the national teams from Denmark and Norway and is an honor for the brand.

Will we be seeing you again at this year’s PGA Merchandise show in Orlando? If so, which booth?

Of course, we will be in Orlando. Personally, this will be my 30th time attending the PGA Show in Orlando, but for Abacus it is much more important. It will be our second year at the show and a beginning of many successful consecutive years, I expect. We will be in Booth 5043.

Where can we purchase the Abacus brand?

At golf clubs and retail stores throughout North America. For the nearest locations, check out www.abacus-outdoor.com.

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