To Rage or Not to Rage ...
Golf is a sport of strategic decision making: conservative course management can dictate a layup or “safe” play on some holes while on others braving danger can pay big dividends.
Mindful choices tend to pay off and Seattle-based sustainable golf fashion upstart Radmor is banking on those conscientious choices extending to the very shirts golfers choose to wear on their backs. By designing tops and bottoms that will either biodegrade or come from a regenerative or recycled resource, Radmor hopes to lessen the environmental impact of the 81lbs of textile waste it is estimated that the average American throws away each year that is then either burned or finds its way into a landfill.
Company founders Scott Morrison and Bob Conrad both played college golf for the University of Washington back in the 1990s, the same program that propelled Joel Dahmen and Nick Taylor to PGA Tour stardom. A fashion industry veteran, Morrison spent the past two decades making waves in the denim world. He launched a trio of brands: 3x1, Earnest Sewn and Paper Denim & Cloth, all of which he’s since exited. Meanwhile, Conrad kept his golf career rolling after his time with the Huskies. He grinded on developmental tours for six years, getting as far as what was then known as the Nationwide circuit before settling into a career selling commercial real estate.
The idea of partnering up on a golf threads venture had originally been broached back when the teammates lived in the same dorm, but back then it was just a fanciful notion. In early 2020 when Morrison moved back to the Pacific Northwest, the wheels started turning.
“We wanted to be something unique, something different. We loved fashion but in the golf world, we hadn’t seen anybody talking about sustainability which is something Scott taught me about during the last six years of his denim career,” Conrad says.
“The whole fashion industry, not just premium denim and high fashion but the Levi’s, the Gap’s, the Banana Republic’s, H&M’s—everyone started to really at least talk about their future commitments around sustainability and how challenging and pollutant the apparel industry is,” Morrison explains. “Virgin polyester is still the most consumed and used product and material in golf apparel and there weren’t any brands really dedicated to talking about the use of recycled or biodegradable materials,” Morrison adds.
The duo were surprised that for the most part, the golf industry had largely eschewed having those uncomfortable conversations about the high carbon footprint of virgin petroleum-based, micro-plastic shedding fabrics. A prime offender is the four way stretch, sweat wicking polyester and spandex polos that dominate the golf apparel market.
Just as the mission driven brand got the ball rolling, Covid and the associated sourcing and supply chain strains hit hard and Radmor ended up delaying their debut till February of 2021, but two years into the game they’ve now honed their approach and have begun to carve out a niche.
Striving to be a better steward of the environment, Radmor is committed to sustainable practices and doing more than just talking the talk. Their clothing uses natural shell buttons and is made from cellulose fibers such as extra-long staple Peruvian pima cotton. When they do use synthetics, such as in their rain resistant outwear, recyclable material is used whenever possible. The ethos extends to their packaging, opting to incur a higher expense to ship their product in reusable polybags and their hangtags and the string that attach them are made from 100% recycled paper.
The vast majority of golf apparel brands that hatched in the past couple years have banked on funky print patterns or streetwear to appeal to the new generation of players that have recently taken up the game. While Radmor also plays to that enticing and up-for-grabs demographic cohort, they stand out by not being another loud polo brand. Instead, the looks are much more muted and rooted in 1990s nostalgia.
Morrison believes their contrarian design aesthetic, the antithesis of what their fast fashion competitors offer, caters to those who appreciate the quality that goes into the making of products designed to last a long time and feel confident enough to be able to wear something with a more subtle vibe that doesn’t call attention to yourself.
“More than anything else, what we really appreciate is golf clothing that doesn’t necessarily feel or look like golf clothing. Our color palette tends to come from Men’s runway shows and European fashions more so than your traditional red, white and blue Americana brand that the golf industry is pretty familiar with,” he says.
“Our shirts, polos, pants and sweatshirts are almost seasonless. That’s part of sustainability as well, making something that is high quality that lasts for a long, long, time that they won’t get bored of when the next bright color comes in the next season. Hopefully our polo can last for years in [our customers’] closets,” Conrad adds
Just under half of Radmor’s sales are direct to consumer with the balance coming from 75-100 pro shops around the country as well as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and a few third-party online retailers that also carry the brand.
Radmor hired three full-time sales associates a couple months back to focus on growing their green grass footprint which they expect to hit 200-250 accounts by year end 2023. In the coming months, their just launched women’s collection is set to take center stage at the upcoming PGA Merchandise Show in January and become a major focus in all their regional markets.
“There really isn’t a golf-specific brand for women that uses natural fibers. Almost every single brand is polyester, nylon or synthetic based. So, there wasn’t an option in the pro shops and we learned that along the way from the different buyers,” Conrad says.
Radmor hopes the mission driven example they’ve set creates a sea change within the industry so that brands no longer just pay mere lip service to sustainable apparel but decide to make it a more meaningful part of their releases.
“I think you’re really going to start seeing is larger brands starting to adopt more sustainable practices and materials into their collections,” Morrison says. He hopes all the practices they’ve implemented set a gold standard of what the industry can look like in fifteen years.