Feature: Fresh look for Mizuno

Mizuno may be better known for their grain-flow than their garments, but their new apparel line for spring/summer 2016 demonstrates a growing commitment to golfing apparel. UK marketing manager Tony Scott takes SGB Golf through the new lines…

The Japanese have an aesthetic concept known as Mitate. There isn’t really a British translation, or even equivalent, but it basically means representing a subject with something simpler and less literal. It is however, a principle that underpins all Mizuno clothing, including western markets like the UK and Europe; and never moreso than in the brand’s garments for spring/summer 2016.

“In terms of style our apparel is not overtly sporty, like a Puma or Nike,” says Mizuno marketing manager Tony Scott. “Instead our range for spring and summer 2016 is populated by contemporary, classic unfussy designs, created for the discerning golfer who cares about what he looks like, wants superior technology and is prepared to pay a little more for quality.”

It is fair to say clothing is not the first product line that comes to mind when you consider Mizuno. Probably their most familiar line has been waterproof suits, and when the brand has marketed golfwear, it’s tended to focus on the Japan-developed Impermalite technology featured in those suits. But in recent years Mizuno has shown a determination to assert there is more to it than its famous grain flow forged irons. Improving driver technology in the likes of the MP630 and current JPX 850 has now been joined by a trio of impressive golf balls. The brand’s growing presence in soft goods appears a further attempt to diversify. A smallish launch in 2014 was followed by a five-times-larger collection for this year, and 2016 will be similarly sized.

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“While Mizuno clothing will always respect its Japanese heritage, our European ranges are very much the product of western initiative and influence,” Scott confirms. “The clothes are created here in the UK, in our Western Development Office. In recent years Mizuno has invested in this office, putting together a seven-strong team of specialists bought in from other apparel companies, both golfing and fashion. We have reached a stage when we can pull decent collections together, and SS 2016 is the next step along this path.”

So what would make retailers already stocking more established brands switch to Mizuno apparel? “It’s important to realise the quality that goes into our forged irons is replicated in everything we produce,” Scott answers. “Mizuno is a high-end premium brand, which puts the same attention to detail into every product we produce, from our latest MP irons to a pair of shorts.

“But we also have a series of very strong and competitive soft goods technology stories. Breath Thermo, for example, is more for the autumn/winter collections, but it is a fabric that captures moisture released by the body and actually reheats it, controlling humidity between the body and the environment.”

One of Mizuno’s better-known technologies is Impermalite waterproofing. Regularly improved over the years, it’s a lightweight performance fabric made from a micro-weave shell and waterproof breathable laminate. While some leading waterproof technologies claim 8,000mm/24-hour waterproofing, Impermalite boasts 10,000.

But of more relevance to SS16 is Drylite. Featuring in each of the eight shirt styles in the new range, Drylite is a dual-yarn water-repelling fabric that moves moisture away from the body, helping to keep its wearer dry and cool.

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In Mizuno’s SS16 range, those polos are joined by a single sweater – the Warmalite quarter zip – in five colours, two pairs of trousers and shorts in two colours, plus a windproof jacket and vest. There is also a series of accessories. However, as yet there is no ladies’ apparel, as the brand attempt to establish themselves in golfwear. The collection is either limited mercifully compact, depending on your point of view.

Style-wise, blues, greens and pinks dominate the collection, with a strong use of various shades of the same colour, for example in the soft polyester Origami polo (RRP £60), one of the key garments in the range. This shirt has contrasting sleeve and back panels, and is offered in Methyl Blue/Total Eclipse, Magenta Haze and White/Castlerock. There is though also some confident contrasting, as displayed by the double-mercerised cotton Piquet Stripe polo (RRP £70), which features a single contrasting stripe across the chest plus a button-down collar. It will be available in Total Eclipse, White and Magenta Haze. There are also splashes of Argyle, as seen in the X-Tint Argyle polo (RRP £60), another polyester offering featuring the pattern subtly across the chest.

Meanwhile, the quarter zip top (RRP £100) features another intriguing technology called Warmalite. The polyester flat-knit material includes a layer that is both breathable and able to capture and recycle heat escaping from the body. Complete with contrasting sleeves and a knocked-back origami print on the back of the neck, the Warmalite quarter zip will be available in five colour combinations.

“Compared to 2015’s apparel, SS 2016 is much more of a collection,” says Scott. “Whereas 2015 was more eclectic, these garments are more consistent, coordinated and aligned. I think most people who see them as being more stylish too.”

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The range’s sell-in is already underway, with Mizuno offering sell-through assistance to help the retailer deal with stock management. The sale of soft goods is kept separate to the hardware, though generally done through the same distribution networks, and by the same salesmen. Now back inside the world’s top 100 after victory in the Lyoness Open, Chris Wood will be wearing the new lines from around September. Also on offer is free embroidery for orders over 24 pieces.

Currently, soft goods account for somewhere between 5 and 10% of Mizuno’s annual sales. “Our target is to double this within the next three years, and get it up to 15%,” Scott informs. “Our technology has moved on, and so has our styling. The quality of our SS16 collection should convince anyone we are serious about making this kind of progress.

“Soft goods is a big market; and we are ready to occupy a bigger part of it.”

For more information visit golf.mizunoeurope.com

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