PARIS — Loro Piana is linking with the holy grail of the golf world, becoming the official supplier to the European team for The Ryder Cup tournaments in 2016 and 2018.
It was a medley of chic navy as Loro Piana chairman Antoine Arnault revealed the collaboration at a press conference here, flanked by models wearing off-course ensembles. He was joined by Darren Clarke, captain of the European team, and Pascal Grizot, vice president of the French Federation of Golf, as well as a frequent opponent of Arnault’s on a variety of courses.
Eager to share the lively atmosphere and verdant scenery of world-class golf tournaments, Loro Piana staged its media event in the midst of the 100th Open de Golf, which opened Thursday, welcoming such top players as Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Victor Dubuisson. The event runs for four days at Le Golf National, a vast facility with three 18-hole courses, in Guyancourt, southwest of Paris and not far from Versailles. It is to be the site of the 2018 Ryder Cup, which alternates between the U.S. and Europe.
Clarke, once known for outlandish on-course ensembles, helped to design the collection. “I have always followed fashion to a certain degree, a lot of it questionable earlier in my career,” he said with a grin, amid chuckles from the sports journalists. “This is going to be the best-dressed Ryder Cup team. The guys will look immaculate, and I hope they play as good as they look.”
“Classically elegant” is how he described the sleek navy cashmere vests and pullovers, trousers with a proprietary Rain System treatment and suede-trimmed sneakers, set off with white polos in featherweight wool piqué.
Players are to wear the outfits for all official appearances, including practice, travel, gala dinners and the opening and closing ceremonies.
Loro Piana is also supplying all of the tournament clothes, though they are being kept under wraps until the cup opens Sept. 30, for three days of competition in Hazeltine, Minn.
“It’s going to be very smart, very clean, very Italian,” Clarke said. “It’s just beautiful clothing.”
“He had a clear, clear point of view on what he wanted,” said Arnault, who stressed the importance of dressing the European team’s 12 players for competition, as Loro Piana has more than a decade’s experience making performance clothes for the links, known as My Golf and boasting windproof and waterproof qualities, along with the breathability of its rare natural fibers and ergonomic shapes.
Arnault, who has played golf for 15 years, more competitively the past five years, called the atmosphere at the Ryder Cup “breathtaking” and “electrifying,” with a strong sense of fraternity and gentlemanly competition. Founded in 1927, the biannual competition that pits Europeans against America’s best players is billed as the third most widely viewed sporting event in the world, bested only by the Olympic Games and World Cup soccer.
The Italian luxury brand, acquired by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 2013, plans to market a Ryder Cup capsule in 17 of its boutiques, including locations in Milan, Paris, London, Tokyo, Geneva, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, Beverly Hills and Honolulu.
While Loro Piana has sponsored equestrian teams and sailing events, Arnault characterized the Ryder Cup project as a new avenue for Loro Piana as it steps up its communication activities.
Word has it that the Italian brand is to unveil its first advertising campaign in years this fall, breaking away from its “best-kept-secret way of doing things,” as Arnault put it. “Now we’re going to speak up a little bit more. It’s important for a brand like us to communicate and be proud about what we do,” he said.
In an interview, Arnault said the Ryder Cup tie-up seemed a natural, as “a lot of our clients are golfers,” and because Loro Piana has credibility in performance golf apparel. “It’s very important not to only link Loro Piana to its casualwear and leisurewear, this going-for-a-walk-in-Capri image,” he explained. “We’ve always had extremely performance-oriented outerwear.”
Although Tiger Woods dominated the sport for years with his athletic style, Arnault pointed to a new generation of players, like McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, who are bringing a new brand of elegance to the sport. “The fact that we’re not sponsoring one person but outfitting a team is very important, because it underscores the fraternity and camaraderie of the sport,” he said, also acknowledging its wide appeal.
“Golf is considered to be a bit of an elite sport in France, but in America and Asia it’s very popular, and that’s something we don’t mind at all,” he said.