What To Wear Next

Sportswear targets dual course of action

The company Hedge is not what you might think. With its name, Hedge might seem suited for gardening.

One in a series of stories about the participants at the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla.

The company Hedge is not what you might think. With its name, Hedge might seem suited for gardening. Co-founders Meagan Ouderkirk and Antonia DiPaolo, both New Yorkers – Ouderkirk in the city, DiPaolo in the Hamptons – saw a need in women’s apparel.

But the need was not in golf but rather in tennis.

Both played at a tennis club that required white outfits.

Finding any stylish tennis attire in white was a problem.

So, Ouderkirk, a former art director at Ralph Lauren, and DiPaolo, a former banker for JP Morgan, decided to come up with their own line of clothing (https://www.hedge-quarters.com).

Hedge co-founders Antonia DiPaolo (left) and Meagan Ouderkirk

“I would say she has a lot of ideas, and I do too,” Ouderkirk said of the partnership. “Honestly, it's just a matter of finding the right partner to make the ideas happen. With this one, we have all had lots of entrepreneurial ideas, but to validate it and make it happen is hard to do.”

The two started working with a production agent, recommended by a Connecticut friend, who would put them in touch with sources for fabrics, buttons and trim for the outfits. The clothing proved to be instant hits in such publications as VogueThe New York TimesArchitectural Digest and Town & Country.

The critical acclaim drove the design train, and the two entrepreneurial designers were on their way.

Ouderkirk pegged the business success to “the timing and the relationship, especially because we're in a very niche brand and started small, so our numbers are low.” 

“So, getting the factories to work with us. Say you have to have minimums, and so finding those was difficult, for sure.”

With most of their clothing made in New York City and their cashmere outfits in China, a small percentage of the business, the duo had the supply chain down and moved to golf. 

It might sound like an easy road to success, but after three years Hedge is still adjusting to the complex world of doing business internationally.

China is a good example. Language barrier, lead time, customs and the expense of shipping were among the issues that prompted Hedge to move production to Turkey.

“In my head, I thought China was going to be cheaper,” Ouderkirk said. “I'm not sure why. But the shipping is very expensive, and the lead times are very long. So, it wasn't exactly more efficient, cost-wise or time-wise.”

Along with production issues, Hedge has had its challenges in golf.

Golf is mainly a male-dominated sport, and Hedge’s price points tend to be higher than most product lines in women’s golf.

They also struggled to find clubs that would stock the line.

“[It’s] not easy, because generally the buyers are the pros, the male pros, and their female clientele is looking for whatever they're looking for,” Ouderkirk said. “So, where our brand does better are places like Conway Farms in Lake Forest, Ill., where there's a merchandiser and she is not just selling golf clothes with the logo. She's selling lifestyle things – scarves and gifts and candles and things like that – and so she understands the sort of female clientele and the way that they shop a little bit better.”

Hedge is not profitable yet, Ouderkirk said, but it is close. The co-founders hope that the PGA Merchandise Show on Jan. 23-26 in Orlando, Fla., will be the crossover to profitability.

“It takes a while. This will only be our third PGA Show to get people aware, and without spending massive amounts of money on advertising,” Ouderkirk said. “We just placed an ad in Women's Golf Journal, which is great. We're on the inside cover spread of the Fall/Winter issue, and we have gotten some good sales from that. But it's a slow trickle to remind people of your brand, and it's also a high price point, so to get people to make that leap – and it’s niche; it's different. It's a little bit dressy, so getting people comfortable with wearing something a little bit different, even if they look better in it, they need to feel comfortable on the course.”

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