Bradley Allan is the hottest new brand to hit the scene this fall. Although, it may not be a household name right now, the label is set to become a serious player in the world of golf apparel and it is easy to see why.
For starters, the man behind the brand is Brad Franklin. Prior to launching Bradley Allan, Franklin spent over a decade designing for industry leaders like Dunning, Sunice, and AUR. Now, he is taking this experience and combining it with an innovative business model and top-shelf fabrics to appeal to fashion conscious golfers.
I first connected with Franklin at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando this past January and it was clear from our initial conversation that he had taken a thoughtful approach to his designs. The styles were clean and classic. The fits were modern and razor sharp. The color palette was sophisticated and masculine. And the fabric was soft and natural. My only disappointment was the fact that he didn’t have any samples for me to buy on the spot.
I’m happy to say that the wait is now over! Bradley Allan’s debut collection launched just a few weeks ago, and thankfully the brand’s Oxford Pique Pocket and Solid Polos have worked their way into my wardrobe. I recently sat down with Franklin to discuss how Bradley Allan’s elegant looks are standing above all the noise in the golf apparel industry, why Pima cotton is the natural choice for performance, and how his approach to releasing mini collections will keep you looking fresh throughout the year.
Enjoy, and keep an eye out for GolfThreads’ review in the coming weeks. (Spoiler alert: reserve your seat on the bandwagon now.) In the meantime, head over to Bradley-Allan.com and pick up a couple of pieces for yourself. We can compare notes.
GolfThreads: You’ve designed for the likes of Dunning, Sunice, and AUR over the years. Why was this the right time to break out on your own to start Bradley Allan?
Brad Franklin: I am very proud of the design work that I have done over the years, but I found very few of those pieces ever made it into my closet. I’d always go to high-end men’s retail stores for golf clothes. I would buy Hugo Boss Black polo shirts and I’d have wool slacks made.
Last year when I started thinking about fabrics, I thought this is where it’s at. You can maintain the supple, soft hand feel that you get from cotton and marry it with something very technical. That is a unique combination. Then, I started looking at what the guys at my golf club were wearing and a lot of them were just wearing cotton Lacoste shirts. I really thought that there is a big opportunity for something different now.
I was over in Europe last week and all the European reps for the distributors were saying that the pros are sick of all the athletic looks and they want something different. It was refreshing to hear from the European sales team that guys were just looking for something new. I’ve heard this from sales people in warmer countries like Spain, Portugal, and Southern Italy, too. I think this is probably an early indicator of what we’re likely to see here.
GT: Having been in the golf apparel business for as long as you have, what lessons have you learned that you are applying to Bradley Allan?
BF: Smart people learn from their wins and losses. I looked at how the companies I worked for in the past operate and I thought there’s got to be a better way. That’s why I’ve developed this web platform where everything is virtually automated. I’m not stocking huge inventory. I don’t have a huge staff or warehousing costs. It’s literally just straight up buying from point A to point B. This allows me to do mini capsules throughout the year whenever I come up with something new versus the traditional seasonal collection launches.
This is completely against how other brands get caught in over inventory situations and stale colors. You can go to your club and 80% of the shop is black, white, shades of blue, and shades of gray. You’ve got fashion pieces covering the other 20%, which make great outfits for the cover of Golf Digest, but that’s not what keeps the lights on. I felt it was a pretty unique strategy from a business standpoint of how I wanted to roll this out. I’m trying to keep everything really authentic and organic.
GT: Does your model mainly focus on ecommerce, or are you working through green grass shops?
BF: 80% consumer and 20% wholesale is my present goal. We’re just starting to roll out on the green grass side and a couple of Canadian accounts are already carrying the product.
Being a former golf pro myself, I’m super tuned into what’s going on right now. I look at my home course and people aren’t supporting the shop like they used to. Buying habits have changed. Everything is much more competitive. You now have access to products from around the world. It’s completely different than it was 15-20 years ago.
GT: There is no shortage of golf apparel labels these days. How is Bradley Allan different?
BF: You have brands that are super technical and then you have brands like a TravisMathew and Linksoul that sit in the middle. What Bradley Allan offers is a very clean aesthetic and a great hybrid of style, quality, and fit, as well as performance attributes.
The fit is one thing that I agonized over. I did three or four versions of what the fit would be in order to get something that can be worn on the golf course and in a casual sense, as well.
Certainly, my business model is different, too. I’m able to offer a better value at a given price point than I typically would if I were looking at a straight wholesale model. While I’m not leading foot first into the door with price as the main focus, it is part of the equation.
GT: Bradley Allan is a combination of your first and middle names. What does it mean to put your name on the company and every piece of clothing that goes out the door?
BF: It’s not lost on me. I’m putting my name and reputation out there and on the product piece by piece. I really look at the pieces as just an extension of how I want to dress on the golf course and how I want my product to behave and wear off the course.
The plan is that as the brand evolves we’re looking at filling a suitcase for a golf trip with your buddies. You need your golf assets and maybe you need some casual products for around the pool and then for dinner.
My muse is an executive that works in Chicago, who is perhaps a member of a country club. He’s not an east coast guy and he’s not a west coast guy because I think there are enough brands that are operating in those spaces. That really was my train of thought for this. I wanted to create something that could be worn under a sports jacket at the office and then paired with some shorts for an afternoon round.
GT: Your shirts feature a soft Pima Cotton blend. Even though we’ve been hit over the head with the synthetic fabric story for the last decade, I’ve always thought of Pima Cotton as nature’s technical fabric. Why is Pima a great performance fabric?
BF: Certainly, when you’re talking about a Pima Cotton fiber, you’re talking about what they refer to as a long staple fiber. It’s a cotton fiber that’s much longer than a regular cotton fiber so there’s more substance there to knit with. You’re starting with a better quality fiber, better hand feel, and better durability. The results are less pilling and less shrinkage and torque on the fabric.
At Bradley Allan, I use a mercerized Pima yarn. This means that as the yarn is finished it is heated and gassed up so it eliminates any of the lumps, bumps, and impurities, so you get an even smoother yarn. Then when you bring in the poly product, you further stabilize it and add the performance element.
I’ve played in Vegas when it has been 110 degrees, and I wasn’t any warmer, colder, wetter, or dryer in a 100% Pima pique shirt than a product made from a performance textile. At some point you reach a breaking point where that fabric is not going to wick, it’s not going to dry any faster than the outside environment.
GT: Talk a little bit about the process of having a start-up company. What challenges have you faced in starting Bradley Allan?
BF: It makes getting up in the morning really, really easy. It’s exciting! The best example was when I received the first set of finished samples. I looked at the product on paper for a few months and then I got the fabric and picked out the colors. When the samples showed up, I got scared because they turned out better than I thought.
There have been a few moments where I felt like I was lost, like underestimating the amount of photography needed to launch a website, but I’ve learned from them. Again, I’m very thankful for the time I’ve spent with the brands that I’ve worked for in the past. I’ve learned a lot of lessons that are going to serve me well as I go forward on my own.
GT: Let’s say you are playing in the final round of your club championship. What’s your Bradley Allan outfit?
BF: I’ll actually play in my club championship in a few weeks. Since it’s summertime, I’ve got to go with some nice light colors to stay cool. To me, it’s one of the Izote (light green) polos with the Lunar or Gray bottoms. It’s a nice, cool look for summer.
Bradley Allan on the web: Bradley-Allan.com
Bradley Allan on Facebook: @wearbradleyallan
Bradley Allan on Twitter: @WearBA
Bradley All on Instagram: @wearbradleyallan