I first connected with Charlie Schaefer and the small Greyson crew just days after the brand was born in early 2015. He planned to debut his new Greyson threads in a matter of weeks with the help of PGA Tour player Morgan Hoffmann on the biggest stage in golf, the iconic fairways of Augusta National. And what a debut it was! Schaefer’s mix of trendy green camos, bold botanical patterns, and chic pin dot prints had the golf world buzzing about Greyson and Hoffmann. This was all on the heels of a 13-year successful career with Ralph Lauren, creating golf apparel for well-dressed players named Luke, Billy, Davis, and Tom. It was here that Charlie developed his talents and ultimately opted to leave the comfort of a large corporation to realize his lifelong dream of having his own company.
Spend a few minutes with Charlie Schaefer and it is easy to see why Greyson has differentiated itself from other apparel brands. A conversation with him is as much about history, philosophy, and spirituality as it is high-tech fabrics and trendy colors. This point of view translates to thoughtful collections that possess depth, sophistication, and dare I say, soul. Don’t get me wrong, though. Fabrics and color palettes are still an obsession for Schaefer. He is a self-confessed “freak” about fabrics and his powerful palettes have the ability to transport you to an exact time and place.
If you are to read one Q&A here at GolfThreads this year, make it this one. Heck, if you read one post, make it this one. You’ll walk away inspired and you’ll have a better appreciation for the layers of complexity that make Greyson a trendsetter in the industry.
In the coming weeks, we’ll have a review of Greyson’s threads. (Spoiler alert – they are nothing short of spectacular!) In the meantime, enjoy this Q&A with one of the best in the biz.
GolfThreads: Just a few weeks after starting Greyson, you outfitted Morgan Hoffmann for the 2015 Masters. About nine months later you showed your first collections at the PGA Merchandise Show. Describe the whirlwind that was the first year of Greyson.
Charlie Schaefer: It’s funny that you brought that up because I recently did a retrospective of our Instagram account. I started with our first post and looked through every post since then. There is a lot more behind the scenes of the first few months than I posted, like driving through a blizzard to get to the PGA Show, or our samples showing up the night before the show started, or the fact that I literally had to hand-deliver clothes to tournaments for Morgan.
Every decision became very simple from the point of view of not having options. The only option was to get to the PGA Show. The only option was to get Morgan clothing. The only option we had was to show samples. The necessity to achieve those things was just part of the process. Through the whole startup, I was fortunate to have amazing people around me, working through everything as a team and allowing me to focus on what was important.
In hindsight, a lot of things were difficult, particularly raising money. That was my biggest achievement. It proved to give me more confidence realizing that lack of knowledge should never hinder progress. I had never raised money before and frankly didn’t care for the concept, but it made me stronger and smarter. The people who decided to support us and trust us, and to be a part of the team are amazing. The concept of building a team is great and something I have always prided myself on, but the process is lengthy and can prove to be cumbersome. We built this team of investors, employees, ambassadors and friends and we have all become family. This is what will define Greyson and lead us through the next five years. It will prove to be one of our largest assets and strengths and something I am very proud of.
Now, there’s actually a little bit of breathing room and it’s really nice.
GT: You chose an image of a wolf for Greyson’s logo. Images of wolves and paws work their way into your patterns, too. What does the wolf symbolize to you?
CS: The wolf symbolizes the concept of a bigger picture where at some point we’re alone. May it be in sport, may it be in business, may it be in relationships. Those times parallel the analogy to the wolf. But, at the end of the day, there’s always the concept of teamwork, symbolized by the pack, and everything that goes into it.
Obviously, with that, there’s the whole concept of strength, specifically mental strength. It’s amazing to me how much you can accomplish if you put your mind to it. There are the elements of sophistication elegance and gracefulness of the wolf which is a big part of the conceptual inspiration for the line and you can see in each of our products.
Nature is a huge influence; it is the biggest inspiration in life. When I need inspiration, I look at things that are greater than me – whether it be a wolf, a leaf, or whatever I encounter beyond myself in the outdoors. Those are the things that create passion, invigorate my mind and give me an added boost of inspiration.
GT: One of the ways that you create depth and sophistication is through blending various styles and playing them off one another. What is it about this juxtaposition of styles that is intriguing to you?
CS: I always go back through history. If you go back through time, you’ll see different fits, fabrics, and attitudes. You will notice that the good trends are subtle and cyclical and the not so good trends are bold and gregarious.
When you look back into the 50s, you look at the Gary Players and the Arnold Palmers. There was an attitude and a swagger to what they were doing, an aura almost. If you’re able to look back to designers and generations that were inspirational and pioneered different color shades and bespoke natures, you’ll see that the concept of clothing should be sophisticated and refined.
At the same time, I’m a freak about fabric. I love it! I’ve always been incredibly intrigued by fabric, especially technical and luxury fabrics. Combining these technical fabrics, with a classical bespoke nod to genre and history is really what Greyson is about.
You could even go down the path from herringbone to camouflage. Again, that’s taking an old pattern and combining it with a new world concept. I believe that there should always be a balance of seriousness with irreverence.
GT: One area where this juxtaposition is evident is in your Sport Collection. It possesses the rawness of a boxing gym and the sophistication of a cosmopolitan city street. What was your inspiration behind the Sport Collection?
CS: You are spot on with the boxing concept. That’s the idea within this whole collection, and it really goes back to an overall concept of urban sport. What an urban sport means to me is that you can wear whatever it is that you’re wearing for that sport, to wherever you need to go afterward. This approach to me is really important because it simplifies clothing and also gives it versatility.
There is that grittiness about the boxing gym that I love, too. I grew up just outside of Detroit. I’ve always respected and loved that city. I love the people there because they are gritty and they work hard. I think that you’ll always see a little bit of that grittiness in what we do because that’s what I loved about where I grew up.
Now in golf, it’s a little bit of a slower transition. If you were to ask me, “Where do I see golf fashion going in five years?” I see more golf clubs building gyms and making that a bigger part of what they are doing. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started incorporating more activewear because it gives the customer an opportunity to buy a multitude of things at those pro shops. It turns their shops into a more dimensional space — a specialty shop, which is more competitive.
GT: How do Morgan Hoffmann’s style and personality mesh with Greyson?
CS: I think there’s a real focus and cleanliness to his style. His style is modern and there’s definitely an athletic toughness to it. He’s very connected on all of the things that we are doing.
Other brands use models for photo shoots. We do photo shoots with Morgan and Don Saladino. Morgan and Don are on our team because they inspire and represent the brand in its purest form. Morgan exudes all of those qualities and he’s an open-minded guy. There are times where, rightfully so, he doesn’t want to take the envelope as far as I do, but we always get to a place where he’s comfortable and I’m comfortable, and we’re both happy. That’s part of teamwork.
GT: You mentioned Don Saladino. He is not a professional golfer, but rather a fitness guru. Why was it important to go outside the PGA Tour for a brand ambassador? What does he bring to the brand?
CS: That’s our strategy across the board. I don’t want to be pigeonholed in one particular area because I don’t want to limit the brand in that way. I’m really focused on growing this brand from a lifestyle point of view because I think that gives us dimension. We don’t necessarily need to do that in a robust way in terms of product breadth, but definitely in terms of image and end use.
Don is the brand, just like Morgan. I’ve known Don for some time and have always held him in the highest regard. Don is an incredibly loyal partner and a huge part of the team. Don is the perfect ambassador to represent and show the public our Greyson S line.
It’s really similar to Morgan from that point of view. You draft on position or you draft on talent. We’re always going to draft on talent. If we get a hockey player wearing our stuff, that’s great. If we get an ex-football player wearing our gear while playing at Pebble Beach, that’s great, too.
GT: Looking ahead, where did you pull inspiration from for Greyson’s upcoming collections?
CS: The summer collection is a whitewash collection. There are really cool pictures of homes in the Hamptons with shingles, whitewash, and interiors that were cohesive with that environment. The dunes and the softer palette struck me as a great summer vehicle. The collection is sophisticated and fitting.
Our Fall One Collection has various shades of blue; light blue, medium blue, royal blue, navy blue, and then black. It is really focused, really cool…literally. It’s edgy, but sophisticated. The images that go with it are of the Lake Placid, Lake Saranac, and Lake George regions of New York. It has this Native American print going through it with arrowheads and decos that are geometric in shape. I love that stuff!
Our Fall Two concept is Scottish Highlands. I took inspiration from the James Bond movie ‘Skyfall.’ At the very end, there was that scene at the manor where Bond (Daniel Craig) grew up in Scotland. He was wearing an oiled dark green down shooting jacket and he had on this cool regal purple cashmere shawl, and it gave off this Royal Highlands of Scotland undertone. We drew a lot of color inspirations from jewel tones, like turquoises and rubies. It’s a very light, but also a very dark and rich color palette for fall.
I have always loved movies and have always found inspiration within them. Anything from Dr. Zhivago to Idlewild…I believe that allowing yourself to be lost in these fantasies only enhance creativity.
GT: What are a few of your favorite pieces in the fall collections?
CS: We did a Merino cashmere hoodie. It’s really clean. It doesn’t have a pouch so it doesn’t look like a hooded sweatshirt. I think it’s amazing! I love the fit. It is definitely a crossover piece where you could wear it with a pair of jeans or wear it to play golf on a chilly day. By eliminating the pouch and using a sweater fabric on the hooded concept, it makes it acceptable for the course.
Then we did different quilted techniques, where there are combinations of channel quilts and diamond quilts with soft shell sleeves. I love those pieces. They’re creative, functional, and elegant.
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