MONTREAL — Linda Hipp is an avid golfer who also loves fashion, but a few years ago she was frustrated with the ho-hum golfwear that was on the market.
“All I saw were ugly pleated shorts and big shirts,” lamented the 38-year-old, who resides in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Golf apparel was masculine-driven, even though an estimated 24 percent of all adult golfers are women.”
Armed with a marketing degree and a career in business development, Hipp decided to do something about it. She left her job at the company that owns the Vancouver Canucks hockey team and started Hyp Golf in 1997, doing her own sketches before hooking up with a patternmaker and two local manufacturers.
After two lean years, the business started to grow, with several accounts picking up her wares. Next, she turned her attention to the U.S. market, where the line has been selling for the last five years. It really started to take off last year after Hyp exhibited in Las Vegas and the PGA show in Orlando, Fla.
Because her styles are more fashion-forward than traditional golfwear, Hipp recently decided to change the name of her company from Hyp Golf to Lija Style (pronounced leezha), a play on the word leisure. The name change also reflects the rebranding from strictly a golf line into activewear and leisurewear.
In its first full year in business in 1998, Hyp had sales of $17,000 and 15 styles in two basic color groups. Last year, sales topped $1.5 million from over 600 golf shops across North America. The sales figures have been converted from Canadian dollars, but retail prices are in U.S. dollars, reflecting the fact that 70 percent of Lija’s business is now done in the U.S. at golf shops and smaller women’s boutiques including Pebble Beach Golf Co. in Carmel, Calif., and Golfdom in McLean, Va.
Polo shirts and pants retail for up to $120, while shorts sell for up to $100. Lija’s high-tech line is pricier, with wind-and-water-resistant jackets selling for $300, while Basics, a lower-priced line, has shirts retailing for $50.
“We’re more fashion-driven than necessity-driven,” Hipp noted. “We focus on the style aspect by integrating a European look with what style forecasters predict. Our clothes are designed to fit a woman’s silhouette and we use cotton stretch blends for comfort and technical fabrics.”
Jimmy Contreras, co-owner of Kimberly Boutique in Philadelphia, said: “The line is funky, colorful and refreshing and it appeals to all ages. Women will just buy the top to wear with jeans.”