Q&A: Dunning Sportswear founder Ralph Dunning
How did you start Dunning Sportswear?
I’ve been an athlete all my life, primarily in the endurance space, competing in road riding and Ironman events. In the 1990s, I founded the Rip ’n Hammer line of premium technical clothing for triathletes and cyclists. I also designed on behalf of some of the world’s largest sports brands such as Saucony, GT Bicycles and Cervelo. When I picked up golf, I wanted to use my knowledge of performance textiles to change the way people dressed for the game. As a result, we were the first company to offer a line exclusively consisting of technical pieces.
Dunning tour pro Zach Johnson recently won at Colonial. What does this do for the brand?
Zach’s a great guy and tremendous player who treats his apparel like a piece of equipment. It has to be just right and that’s why we’ve had such a successful, longstanding relationship.
This partnership has certainly contributed to the success of the Dunning brand, perhaps most notably when he won the 2007 Masters. The exposure was tremendous, and certainly advanced awareness for the distinctive clothing we offer. Things like that and the victories which have followed not only drive direct sales with consumers, they also help to open doors at the top clubs and resorts which are among our most important customers.
What other athletes do you have on the roster?
John Rollins and Kyle Stanley are also on our roster. They’re nice complements to Zach in that they have different styles, but each prefers to look clean and classic. I think it’s also worth mentioning that there are a bunch of players on the Tour – including guys who have won multiple major championships – who choose to wear our clothing in competition but are not paid to do so. That’s really a testament to the fact that we’re striking the right chord with our designs.
Who is your target audience?
Men of all ages want to look and feel good. In terms of our core audience, it ranges from guys in their early 20s up through mid-50s. The reason why we appeal to such a wide demographic is because we offer two different fits – slim and regular/athletic. This allows guys to find the cuts that best mesh with their personal style. Regardless of how they’re wearing the brand, the common characteristics are that our customers tend to be active, athletic men who want clothing that offers superior performance both on and off the course.
Where do you see Dunning in 10 years?
Dunning is a lifestyle brand that offers pieces versatile enough for almost any situation – from golf, to business, to travel and casual environments. This will continue to be the case as we grow over the next decade.
When are you going to have a ladies line?
We actually had a women’s collection for several seasons and it did quite well. As our business really took off, we made the decision to focus on menswear in order to expand properly. That said, re-launching a ladies collection is definitely not off the table.
What separates Dunning from other brands?
I think what separates us from other labels is our distinct heritage in endurance sports. Elite cyclists and triathletes depend on their apparel to keep them cool and dry in all conditions. We’re always seeking new ways to incorporate premium technical fabrics that will help men feel and look their best both on and off the course.
What do you enjoy most about being in the apparel business?
For me, the fact that I’m able to make a living doing something I’m tremendously passionate about is as good as it gets. I’ve spent the last 20 years enjoying the creative process and drawing inspiration from all of my various interests, including fashion, music, travel and sports.
What do you see as a dominant trend in the apparel market right now?
An evolution in fits is really what’s driving the overall men’s apparel business right now. Based upon what we’re seeing from our customers and accounts, there’s been a significant shift toward more athletic fits over the past few years. We were out in front of this a bit and are well entrenched with both slim and athletic/regular fit options. Both feature clean silhouettes and vintage ’60s-inspired tailoring, which is a timeless look well suited for both on and off the course looks.
Where can the brand be purchased?
Dunning Sportswear is carried throughout North America at private clubs, resorts, menswear specialty retailers and department stores. It’s also available online at www.dunningsportswear.com.