While Dorienne Raynolds leads the ANNIKA Collection design team at Cutter & Buck, that doesn’t mean Annika sits on the sidelines and only lends her name to the endeavor. For its 15-year existence, she too has played an integral role in making it one of Cutter & Buck’s most successful lines. Here are a few thoughts from Dori and Annika and how the brand came to life.
What is the first step you take when designing the ANNIKA Collection? Do you start with color palette, fabric, functionality, something else?
D: I start with both color and concept.
With color, I start with what moves me. By this I mean, what feels and looks fresh and new, but also keeping in mind where I’m coming from. The color palette is a very interesting and incredibly hard thing to put together. There’s lots of different trends out there, but in the end, I follow my instinct because it has to be right for our customer and the ANNIKA brand.
The concept is really the heart and soul of the collection. For the last couple years, I’ve started thinking about characteristics Annika embodies; what it truly means to be a champion. It could be as straight forward as “hard work,” but I’ve really started to dig deeper. For example – Believe from Dec 2018 release was started with a quote. The intent was to give a nod to coaches, mentors and truly the support system needed to continue to drive at a professional level. I like to find quotes that represent a motivation and then draw the titles for each collection from that. Overall each season is comprised of two limited edition groups and those two groups will have an over-arching theme. Lately I’ve really liked the theme of “support.” I also like acknowledging the training aspect of golf which isn’t talked about a lot. We all have to work hard to maintain a healthy mind and body. I really like being able to relate the brand to EVERYONE, not just the professional athlete.
What role do you play in designing the ANNIKA Collection?
Annika: I give them my input from a player’s perspective when it comes to what I desire in terms of functionality and practicality. I obviously give them my thoughts on style, color, details and features. I want the collection to represent me and what I like to wear and they have captured that. I always say if it isn’t something I would be proud to wear on the course, it’s not something we should try and sell. It needs to be authentic!
To whom does the ANNIKA Collection appeal?
Annika: I would say it is for athletic, performance-driven women who are conscious about fashion and style. It also covers women who enjoy an active lifestyle, so not just golfers. I always say I like to be able to leave the course and go to dinner without feeling like I am “playing through.
Please walk us through the typical design process.
D: Once the color and concept are established, I figure out the print story that connects to the theme, and I start exploring function / fabric / styling needed to keep the concept connected.
For example, a fabric function that was introduced with the March 2019 release was Fresh by HEIQ. If you’ve ever worn a polyester shirt, you may have noticed that sometimes the odor does not wash out. You put the clean shirt on and realize it still smells. Fresh is an eco-finish added to the fabric that helps prevent the odor to adhering to the yarns. This is a great story to have in the Annika brand – very relatable to on course play, but also a function that is valid off course, too.
Really it comes down to thinking about how each style is going to be worn and how best it needs to function.
Once I have all the function / fabrics / styling finished, we have a line review meeting. Once I’m given the necessary approvals, I start working with the factories to get it produced. I have four months to have all styles fit / color/ print approved before we go directly into production. There’s no room for mistakes – no pressure!! I’m very fortunate that we have a great group of vendors and mills that are very skilled, and bring my crazy ideas to life!
How long does it take from the time you first begin designing a new season for the ANNIKA Collection to the time it hits stores?
D: We are on a 10-month development cycle – start to finish. As mentioned above, I have four months from color / concept to completed designs to approved fit / color / print. I do what we call “pipeline work” which can be used at any time. This pre-work keeps me very nimble when the development season officially starts. It’s like doing your homework ahead of schedule.
How many people are on your design team?
D: I’m the designer. We have a technical designer who takes care of fit. One merchandiser who gives business status, and provides the line plan. And then the director of design and merchandising. The four of us work together to bring the brand to life.
How did you first become interested in clothing design?
D: I first got interested in clothing design in high school. I had ideas in my head that I didn’t see in stores. I started sewing and bringing what I wanted to life. It also helped that my dad owned a sewing factory. He’s a genius when it comes to clothing construction! I worked in his factory during summers when I was in college, so I have a great appreciation for U.S. made clothing.
Were there any special classes you took in high school or college to help you reach your career goal?
D: I went to the University of Washington. My first love was ballet. I received my BA in dance, and while I was a professional dancer, I made costumes on the side. At one point I felt I wanted to pursue clothing design so I ended up going to Seattle Central for a very intense two-year apparel design program. There’s not one class that stands out to me – the whole program stands out. It was very focused, demanding and intense. It was perfect for me because it required discipline like what was needed to be a ballet dancer. Between my movement and design background, I have a great understanding of how clothes need to move around the body. I know how I wanted them to feel and I think that helps me be a better designer.
What's one part of a fashion designer's day-to-day responsibilities that the average person would find surprising?
D: I play paper dolls with my designs. I know it sounds weird, but it’s the best way to see if everything works together. It’s a test to see if the designs look cohesive. I can start to see when designs just don’t jibe with the rest of the concept.
Not sure if this is surprising, but when I get stuck, I remove my favorite design. I know I have a tendency to get blinded by how cool something is and more often than not it’s what’s clouding my eye. This usually enables me to see what the collection really needs.
What is the biggest change in women's golf fashion in the last 10 years?
D: The biggest change / influence are the big active brands. Those brands have made a big impact on how women wear clothes in general, not just the golfer. This has influenced the golfer and golf apparel industry greatly. The matching outfit isn’t as strong as it used to be. Yes, things need to work together, but it’s subtle and versatile. Women in general are buying clothing that are multi-purposed, not just for one outfit.
What's the next "big thing" in women's golf fashion?
D: The eco story is big in the clothing industry in general, but no one is doing it in golf quite yet. This is a very mainstream concept in the outdoor/ active industry that needs to be in golf. We need to do our part, and it’s only fitting that the ANNIKA brand introduce it into golf first. I’m very excited to bring it to life for 2020!
What attributes of the ANNIKA Collection make it ideal for casual and avid golfers alike?
D: This is a great question. The garment and fabric functions are key attributes. There’s a lot of function built into each garment and this works great for the casual or avid golfer, as well as just the active person. Everyone needs sun protection – all tops in the ANNIKA line are UPF50 with varying options to stay covered and remain cool. We have our Solar Guard long sleeve which can be worn under any of the knit tops or on its own. Either way, you’ll be protected. We also have Fresh for odor control and the eco story coming for 2020! All our tops are constructed to have the flattest seams possible so there’s no catch or abrasion. And then all seams are shaped in a way to move with the body to enhance range of motion. Whether you’re a casual or avid golfer, these details will help you look good and feel comfortable on course or off.
On a side note, most of the garments can be used for other activities – everything has moisture wicking and depending on the style breathability / venting and protection. I wear the ½ zip long sleeves for swimming. They work great as rash guards and keep me protected. I think the ANNIKA brand is starting to better emulate Annika the person. Golf is her number one sport, obviously, but she’s does so much more: running, cycling and swimming. A lot of the styles in the line are starting to showcase this multi-use functionality.
Can you give us a sneak preview of what's new for 2020?
Annika: We continue to upgrade the ANNIKA Collection. It’s important we stay with the current style and fashion trends, but we also need to listen to our customers. You will continue to see high-tech fabrics and modern features such as clothes with sun protection.
Click here to view the ANNIKA Collection by Cutter & Buck.