Q&A: Caulfield Apparel Group VP Shane Brett
The Abacus brand has traveled miles and jumped oceans to land in the U.S. market. While Abacus has gained a following, many people don’t know details about the products and the man behind the products. I spoke with Shane Brett, vice president of the Caulfield Apparel Group and North American distributor of Abacus, to find out more.
How has Abacus evolved?
The Abacus brand was founded by Sven-Olof Karlsson in 1991 in the Swedish town of Lund. The collection started with a golf outerwear focus - highly technical and functional garments. From there, Abacus evolved into a full men’s and women’s outerwear and sportswear brand. The Abacus tagline is “Count on it.” - this references the focus on quality and the ability of Abacus product to deliver both function and fashion at the same time. The growth of Abacus has been exponential in the past few years and the brand is now sold in over 20 countries worldwide.
How did the brand break into the North American market?
Our company, Caulfeild Apparel, was looking for a unique sportswear brand with the product quality and design horsepower to make an impact in the North American golf market. As a former retailer, I was aware of the Abacus brand and always admired it for its unique styling and the functional twist to design. We approached Sven-Olof at the PGA Show in Orlando in 2009. What started as a conversation, led to a great business partnership.
What type of fabrics and styles will be apart of the line next season?
Abacus is always looking to the forefront of fiber and fabric technology. Functional garments were the original basis of the collection and that focus stays strong today. Within Abacus you will see very technical fabrics like Cocona and CoolMax Extreme, designed to keep you dry and cool. At the same time, we use interesting blends like CoolMax and merino wool, which produces a very fashionable garment that still has very technical functions. Next season you will see a further evolution of this - a collection of functional sportswear that is ‘trend right’ in the world of fashion.
What makes Abacus stand out from larger brands like Adidas and Nike?
Abacus is not a mass market brand, and as a result, has a very unique and individual feel in the collections. Scandinavian design is know for its clean lines and attention to detail. Abacus certainly follows this tradition. The fit of the Abacus product is true to its Scandinavian roots - it does not fit ‘euro slim’, but rather has a trimmer, contemporary fit that can look great on everybody.
Who are the ambassadors of your product? Do they contribute to the design and technology of the pieces?
Our ambassadors include professionals on the European Tour, PGA Tour (Richard S. Johnson), LPGA, Ladies European Tour and Japanese Tour. We are also a clothing sponsor for the European Challenge Tour, Danish Golf Federation and Norwegian Golf Federation. Having ambassadors provide feedback on the fit and function of Abacus is a vital part of the development process. These people truly put our products to the test and help us constantly improve as a result.
You won the “clothing match” at the 2009 Solheim Cup. Will there be repeat outfitting for the Europeans next time around?
We were very proud of the European team and the way they represented Abacus at the Solheim Cup. The feminine colour palette, unique details and stylish fit of their uniforms certainly made them stand out during the matches. Our relationship with the Solheim Cup team and the Ladies European Tour has been phenomenal and we are certainly hoping to extend it to the next event in 2011 at Killeen Castle in Ireland.
I know the Abacus design team is already working on design concepts for the 2011 Solheim Cup uniform in anticipation of a continued partnership. If I knew what those concepts were, I’d love to share them, but the design team keeps all the details in secrecy right up to the event.
What if the Americans wanted you to outfit them too?
Being a Swedish brand, there is an inherent passion for the European team. However Abacus would welcome the opportunity to dress the American team as well.
Is there anything new and exciting in the works?
We are excited about the recent addition of Louise Stahl of the LPGA and the English Golf Union to our team of Abacus ambassadors. We are also sponsoring Adrian Dennis, a professional sports photographer who blogs regularly on the Abacus Web site. His feedback on the performance of Abacus is interesting and very insightful as he covers major events such as the 2010 Olympics and Wimbledon. You will see a continued focus on developing the Abacus team of ambassadors over the coming seasons.
What is the ultimate goal for the brand?
In 10 years, I see Abacus as a highly sought after brand that helps make golf more fun and fashionable, makes something modern out of tradition and consistently lives up to it’s brand promise of “Count on it.” The ultimate goal is to continue developing Abacus into an international lifestyle brand that reaches beyond the world of golf. And if we can get there in five years, all the better.