Q&A with Chris Mattsson Designer at Abacus Sportswear

Chris Mattsson

Chris Mattsson

Golf clothing has come a long way since the days when a long skirt and buttoned up shirt were part of the standard kit. Preserving one’s modesty far outweighed the importance for any practical benefits, and you can’t help but wonder why any ladies would ever have wanted to play golf since the tight fitting a la mode blouses back then made it neigh on impossible to take a proper swing at a ball. Today, golf clothing is as much about feeling good as it is about looking good, and fashion has become a hot topic for discussion on fairways the world over.

Inspired design

Chris Mattsson, Designer at Abacus Sportswear, talks about the Spring/Summer 2013 collection, what inspires her creations and how function, design and quality are necessities for the Solheim Cup Team kit.

What influenced your designs for the Spring/Summer 2013 collection?

The Collection combines a variety of bright Caribbean colours – blues and vibrant coral – as well as cool Scandinavian pastels. I travel a lot for inspiration, often to bigger cities where you can see how the fashion stores are merchandising their products. Some of the ideas for this collection actually came from trips to London and Berlin, but I was also in New York recently. I take a lot of photos, go to fashion shows, look at the shop windows and observe the people – there is so much diversity and that inspires me to design.

What are the stand-out products in the collection?

Reversible garments, such as the Digby reversible shorts and the Trace vest, are key for Spring/Summer. There’s a practical reason for this – it means when people are travelling they can create different outfits and looks without packing too many garments. Sun protection is an important functional element to the collection, and the first time we have used this technology. Products such as the Flixton polo, made with Cocona® fibres from coconut shells and the Carlo polo, made with Bamboo Charcoal® combined with micro polyester, fulfill our criteria for function, design and quality.

We also have a few items that combine a very classical look with the sporty. For example the Tiverton jacket and vest look traditional in grey but have bold green and orange highlights, mixing the two different styles.

Abacus Sportswear has been a pioneer of stretch fabrics, especially the Pitch waterproof fabric. Why do you believe stretch is such an important performance characteristic?

Many brands have used a certain well-known waterproof fabric technology in their outerwear over the years, but most of these garments have no stretch or limited stretch panels. From the beginning, we have believed that golfers can play their best golf if they are wearing a waterproof-breathable fabric that does not hinder their golf swing, and that means being stretchable all over. Pitch fabric is not only highly stretchable, like elastic, it is lightweight, breathable and super-comfortable to wear, even next to the skin. Many golfers say they don’t even know they are wearing a waterproof when they are wearing a Pitch jacket.

What about breathability?

Clearly, breathability is imperative in waterproofs and having developed our products in Sweden and Scandinavia where people are wearing outerwear regularly, we know the importance of keeping the golfer comfortable and dry. As we’ve moved into international markets, especially Asia, we’ve built in breathability to many more of our products, using lightweight technical fabrics that suit hot and humid conditions but don’t compromise on design and quality. A good example of this is the kit we are providing for the The Solheim Cup 2013, which is being played in Colardo. The weather in the mountains can be warm, with thundery showers, then rapid temperature falls. The products the players will be wearing include the Forged polo and Mulligan fullzip fleece, from the Spring/Summer 2013 collection.

Tell us about your background and how you came to be a Designer of Abacus Sportswear?

My background is in sports clothing. I was working as a designer in the 1990s here in Sweden, working closely with customers in developing products when, in 1998, I met Sven-Olof and Ingrid, the owners of Abacus Sportswear. They wanted to make their own golf outerwear products so we developed a very small unisex collection that consisted of just one rain jacket with rain trousers, one wind jacket, wind trousers, one
polo shirt and one fleece.

What gave them the confidence to think that they could create something different or unique in golf?

They were representing and selling other brands at the time and had customers come to them with new suggestions for designs, things they wanted to change and improve. At that time, a lot of rainwear was big and clumpy and not very sexy. Sven-Olof and Ingrid thought, ‘we can do this better by ourselves’. Our attitude was, and remains, when you have function in your garments, you can still look good. That’s wear our ethos of ‘Function, Design and Quality’ came from.

Isn’t it very difficult to create garments that are both functional but also fashionable?

No, I don’t think so. It comes naturally to me. You can still look good, even if it is functional. I would say 99% of our clothing is made from functional fabric. However, quality is also extremely important and I am personally involved in everything, from design to production, to maintain that quality. We are a team of six people – six very talented people, I might say with the same ethos – and we work together on every garment.