Fairway Life

AN INTERVIEW WITH PUMA'S KRISTIN HINZE

May 31, 2019

Recently, we chatted with Kristin Hinze, Global Head of Merchandising for Puma apparel. Read along as she shares her insight into golf fashion, trends, and how the Puma brand fits into the landscape.

FairwayStyles: Describe what your role is with Puma.

Kristin Hinze: My first four years with Puma, I was the Global Head of Product Creation for the apparel segment of our business. More recently, I transitioned into this newer role, which is Global Head of Merchandising across apparel, footwear, and accessories.

FS: How would you describe the brand of Puma apparel?

KH: We always strive to be stylish and innovative. I think that, while a lot of brands are trying to tell that sport and lifestyle story. That's always been our heritage, back to when we were launched the 1940s. We feel like we're most successful when we find that right mix of products that is technical in nature but stylish. It has that great on and off course appeal.

FS: What do you feel sets Puma apart from other brands out there?

KH: We think a lot about fabrication, more so than a lot of brands. Some brands are still telling a very heavy poly story, that looks shiny and technical. Other brands focus on the lifestyle, with fabrics rich in cotton, which aren’t going to perform as well as technical. We’ve worked really hard to create blends with a really, really soft, cotton feel that don't have the shine. So, it's going to look like a polo that you could wear to the beach or at the barbecue that's also going to perform the way you would want something that had more technical outlook.

FS: What trends are you seeing in the industry right now? Are there any specific materials, fabrics, or performance features?

KH: There’s starting to be a resurgence and focus on sun care, especially in the women’s business. We're definitely building more UPS 50+ coverage into our fabrication.

On the men's side of the business, it's been interesting to watch the casualization of life in general. Think about companies that recently abandoned their business dress code or in the tech sector and how those CEOs are wearing t-shirts and hoodies. It feels like there's more of a general blend of casual gear. So we're trying to address that piece of the market. We think about what our version of the blade polo is, what a Henley is, or shorts that have a little bit more of a casual aesthetic. We're looking at those lifestyle trends and trying to bring golf up to speed to be a little bit more modern and casual.

FS: Are you seeing any specific fabric trends or blends of fabrics more so now versus in years past?

KH: I definitely think that cotton has come back in a big way. We've seen it start out on the West Coast and now it seems to be creeping east. There's consumer demand for that look, but you're not going get that same technical performance, which is where we really tried to focus on. We’re making sure you're still going to get that quick dry performance along with that softer, cotton-like hand-feel.

puma fusion yarn shirt

We have two blends that we've been working on. One is our Fusion Yarn Flex, which is an 83% polyester, 13% cotton, and 4% spandex blend. That gives it a nice soft, cottony hand-feel without sacrificing the performance.

We also have a new blend coming out later in 2019 The way we talk about it in the office is ‘I can't believe it's not butter,’ like ‘I can't believe it's not cotton’ because it has this really great brushed, soft hand-feel.

FS: During the design process, what's the percentage you consider when players are on the course versus off the course?

KH: Our perspective is that every single piece should be playable. You can walk on the course and know it's going to perform the way you needed to. But, it should have an easy transition off the course.

FS: Where do you see apparel design going over the next five years?

KH: That’s a good question. I think that continued casualization of apparel, in general, is going to continue to play a role. Everyone is trying to chase the idea of wanting to own the consumer's closet for all of their needs; whether it's to work, on course, or off course. I also think there's going to be a focus on sustainability. We are certainly, as a brand, continuing to push those initiatives.

FS: Switching gears a little bit; Puma comes out with a bunch of different limited edition collections throughout the year which is really creative and unique. What goes into creating those designs?

KH: We love storytelling. I think that's one of the things that we really do best as a brand. We’re very fortunate working in golf that we have the Tour schedule to help drive these stories, taking inspiration from the courses they play. For example, at Bethpage Black, we did a limited edition Warning Sign shoe and Warning Snapback Hat that was inspired by the course.

puma warning sign limited edition

We've also had a lot of success with the Arnold Palmer collaboration. Rickie Fowler was very close with Mr. Palmer so there's been a really nice tie into their relationship.

Rickie, as an ambassador for his foundation, helps us be able to raise money for Arnie's Army that goes back the children's hospitals that Arnie supported. We haven't talked about it a lot publicly, but we'll be expanding that partnership beyond just the footwear and accessories limited editions that we've been doing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the last few years into a full, co-branded licensed partnership on the apparel side as well.

FS: That's exciting! What are some of the challenges in designing clothes for men versus women?

KH: The women golf consumer is tricky because, with very few exceptions, she's a fair-weather golfer. It's trying to find a way to grasp her attention with something that's really desirable. She's very outfit driven, so we think much more in outfits when we design for women. She's also much more conscious of fit. We have to be aware of a whole range of body types.

Men’s is a much more straightforward business. If we've got great fabrics, we're on point with color or we're doing something that’s a special edition, we’re in a great place.

FS: How has Puma evolved as a brand?

KH: When we first started out, everything was super bold and very colorful. Since then, the line has evolved considerably. We still use color and pattern, those are the hallmarks of our brand DNA. But, we're much more strategic about the scale of the pattern, for example, or how many colors we're going to put in a specific shirt. We want the product to be trend relevant but also have a bit more of a timeless feeling to it.

FS: We wanted to finish up our conversation talking specifically about the Jackpot bottoms line. Can you start off by going over some of the standout features of the line?

Puma Jackpot bottoms

KH: We couldn't be more proud of our Jackpot bottoms. We've focused on a couple of things; first was the fabrication. We wanted a fabric that would obviously perform well on the course, with moisture wick, stretch, and great movement. We also wanted something with enough structure that it would have a tailored aesthetic and wouldn't look like your traditional golf pants.

The second was the fit. Across the board, the line has a curved waistband, which contours really nicely to the body. They also have a stretch, mesh waistband construction. It's light, it's breathable, and there's a Puma Golf shaped gripper print on the inside. So, if you choose to tuck your shirt in, it's going to stay tucked in.

From a silhouette and fit perspective, we have a few options. We have our Jackpot Trouser, which has an on-seam pocket and a nice, straight leg from knee to the bottom opening. It also has a side slit at the bottom, so it's going to break on top of the shoe.

Then we have the Five Pocket silhouette, that's the kind Rickie likes to wear the most. They have all of those great fabric construction details along with patch pockets on the back and more of a denim pocket in the front.

We have a Tailored Fit as well, in more of a trouser silhouette. There’s a straight fit from hip to knee. From knee to bottom opening, it tapers slightly. The inseam is a bit shorter as well because it's meant to break above the top of your shoe. So, that's a little bit more progressive outlook, you know, show a little bit of ankle.

FS: Puma talks about the custom weave pattern in the fabric of the Jackpot bottoms. What's custom about it and how did Puma come up with it?

KH: We worked really closely with our mill partners. Every season, before we start designing, our team goes over to Taipei and spends a week in the mill. We sit with our fabric engineer's and brief to them what it is that we're looking to get; whether it's a performance element, a weight element, or a construction element.

We sat with the team over there and briefed those qualities to them and they were able to come up with construction for the Jackpot bottoms we felt would give great structure but also great stretch. We wanted something where, if a guy bent down to read his putt, he didn't get that bagging at the knee. We wanted the fabric to come back and look really clean so when he got off the course, he would still look really polished and fresh.

FS: What sets Dry Cell technology, which is used in the Jackpot bottoms, apart from other moisture wicking technologies?

KH: A lot of brands will put a moisture-wicking finish into their fabrication that's like a chemical finish lasting 10, maybe 20 washes. After that, the finish will start to diminish considerably. The other way to apply moisture wicking is through a yarn construction. It could be a hollow core fiber or the way the mill weaves the fabric. We always invest in moisture wicking that’s inherent in the yarn’s structure so that it lasts for the lifetime of the garment.

FS: Thank you so much for your time and sharing your insight into the Puma brand and specifically Jackpot bottoms, Kristin.

KH: Thank you so much for having me!