Fergus Bisset met with Christian Nilsson and Mats Lundqvist from Galvin Green to talk about the brand, the Ryder Cup and their ongoing quest to produce the highest quality and best-performing golf clothing.
ML is Mats Lundqvist – Lead Designer at Galvin Green, CL is Christian Nilsson – CEO of Galvin Green
Q: Tell me a little about the history of Galvin Green and your involvement with the company…
ML – I joined Tomas before he created the brand. I started as a young guy and have been with the company for 30 years. Back at the start we were doing different sports, ski wear and casual clothing too.
In the late 80s early 90s I had started playing golf because Tomas introduced me to the game – he’s played since the early 1970s. He actually gave me a set of clubs and that’s how I started. I played golf every day and I loved it.
After a year or two, we thought, wait a minute, we’ve got to start making clothing especially for golfers, because back then what was out there was quite poor. So we created a brand name: “Galvin Green.” It’s debated a little as to where that came from. I think it was actually a marketing agency who came up with the name. And I think it was that they felt it should be a person’s name and then something to do with golf… “Galvin” and “Green.” And there it was.
So then it all started. The first collection was in 1990 and we started doing classic stuff, rainwear especially. Then in 1991, 92 we felt we needed to stand out a little bit in terms of design so we started adding colour into our gear and we started to adapt the jackets and trousers for golf even more. So specific golf details – turn-up cuffs, adjustable chest width. All those things. Then it started rolling because golf consumers started to understand that we were actually thinking about what you need on the golf course.
CN – I was a golfer when I was young. My father and mother went on honeymoon to Scotland and they just always played golf.
I quit school quite early and I went as a ski bum to Austria for a while. I came back and went to high school and to university. I started working for an elevator company in sales and marketing and then in 1999, after 10 years, I was contacted by a head-hunting firm who asked if I was interested in a new job. I was, and went for it. I met Tomas a couple of weeks later we shook hands and that was that.
Tomas founded the company and he ran the company, he was and is the company. Then, in 2001 we went to a customer and on the way home we stopped the car and Tomas said, “Christian, you interfere too much in what I’m doing… So it’s better you do it.” He said it in a nice way and then asked if I was interested and I said of course. So March 2002, I took over as managing director for the company.
Q: What are the innovations you’ve been proudest of?
ML – When we first started using GORE-TEX and WINDSTOPPER, that was 91, 92 I think. These were fantastic fabrics and they work really well, but if you’re not wearing the correct things underneath, they don’t work as well. So, when we started doing this we realised we needed to teach golfers how to dress from the inside out. Back in 96, 97 we started doing shirts in 100% polyester that were really breathable. And at that time we were pioneers to a certain extent. So we had a tough time because everybody wanted cotton shirts. We were offering polyester shirts and some people didn’t appreciate that. But we were persistent and the function became more important than the hand feel.
But now, today, a polyester shirt is almost the same feel as a cotton one. So that was one of the things I was proudest of, one of the nicest things we’ve done – being ahead of the curve.
Q: Where do you see Galvin Green in five years time?
ML – I think we will be on the same track providing functional golf gear, but I think things will have evolved even further when it comes to feel, softness, lightness, the way you seam seal garments for example, the way you knit fabrics. So our mission now is to take what we have and to improve it even further. As a golfer, if you don’t notice what you’re wearing then that’s the best thing.
Huge growth is not the objective. We want healthy growth. We say “we never compromise” but it’s true. We don’t want to do something simply to grow the business and earn a little extra money. It has to be long term or else it’s not compatible with what the board, and what Tomas want to do.
CN – It’s important to be different and to make changes, to do things better. We should invent products that the customer and consumer didn’t even know existed. That is what we want to strive for.
In terms of business, we might be on a little higher turnover, I think we will be a little more established in North America. I think we will have a solid customer base in Europe. We might have less customers overall… We will have retailers doing a better job than they are today. We are looking to retailers who are selling the whole package from Galvin Green – not just the odd jacket. We have a world-class product and we should have world class resources for getting that product to the end user.
Q: Is there a limit to technical advancements in performance wear?
ML – I don’t think so. I think techniques will keep evolving. Look at technology like smart phones, it’s constantly moving forward. And I think textiles right now, it might not be such ground breaking innovations, it’s small changes. Also, eventually, there will be new ground-breaking technology in terms of production. For example – robots sewing the garments together perhaps… you will always have exactly the same measurements.
CN – What will affect us in the future is the environment. I think our kids now will be more aware of environmental sustainability and I think this is a big thing going forward. When they are 25, what will they ask for in a product?
I also think that a lot of technologies like chipping, GPS and electrical fibres through the fabrics might come in. So, for example, instead of filming you to see how you are swinging, you actually may have sensors within the fabric of a sweater where you can monitor and analyse movements.