A model in a selection from Chervò’s spring / summer collection 2021.
Decades before he founded a golf apparel brand with his brother, Chervò co-founder and creative director Peter Erlacher was an accomplished alpine ski racer in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At a time when the Valanga Azzurra (Blue Avalanche) dominated the slopes, he became the coach and athletic coach of the Italian national team.
“Back then, the Italian team was probably the largest team in the world with racing drivers like Gustav Thöni, Piero Gros, Erwin Stricker, Fausto Radici, Helmuth Schmalzl and many more,” says Erlacher.
Coaching was a calling, but it wasn’t exactly paying a lot of money. To improve his income, Erlacher took a part-time job in the import and distribution of sporting goods from the USA and Switzerland. The part-time job inspired him to team up with his brother Manfred and start his own sportswear brand. Chervò, a play on words for “deer” in Italian, was founded in 1982. The brand initially sold socks, gloves and clothing for skiers who wanted to carve in powder in style.
Golf came into play after Erlacher was introduced to the game during a four-day vacation at a resort in Sardinia. At first he was reluctant to try golf because he agreed to the stereotype prevailing at the time that it was a game for retirees, not athletes.
“30 to 40 years ago, most active athletes viewed golf as a recreational rather than a sport, and I was no exception,” he admits. “I immediately understood that I was totally wrong. Today everyone can see that golf has become a strength sport. To be successful, you have to be a real athlete, both physically and mentally. “
After Erlacher got a taste for it, Chervò built head-over skis into golf clothing in 1991. They started with rainwear that was supposed to dampen the annoying crackling of waterproof fabrics of the time.
“We introduced Aqua Block, which was lighter, softer and quieter, but is still perfectly waterproof and breathable,” says Erlacher.
Today the luxury brand no longer produces ski clothing and focuses on golf fashion. Chervò runs a brisk direct-to-consumer business and is also sold in 800 stores around the world, including a 4,000-square-foot showroom in North Palm Beach, Florida that also serves as the brand’s US headquarters.
Andrea Cerù, responsible for the business development of Chervò on the international markets, sees the USA as an important growth driver for the brand in the future.
“America is our big dream and our new frontier. We expect it to be as big as in Europe in a few years, ”says Cerù. He adds that Asia Pacific now accounts for 25% of its business with China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam, which is fueling demand.
This year Chervò has named two European Tour players, both of whom played their college golf at Texas A&M, on their Recommended Athlete list. Dressing Andrea Pavan, an Italian professional with two wins, the D + D Real Czech Masters 2018 and the BMW International Open 2019, is child’s play. Johannes Veerman now covers all of Chervò’s transcontinental ambitions in one fell swoop. He is an American born to an Indonesian mother and a Dutch father and raised in the United States, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, China, and England.
“The long-term strategy is definitely to add PGA Tour professionals,” said Layne Dempsey, Managing Partner of Chervò USA.
The use of ambassadors to promote the brand has moved much more into focus for Chervò in the past year. They already have LPGA and Ladies European Tour players in their stable and if there was the right person who fits the brand’s image they would be open to partnering with a player on the golf’s top men’s tour.
“The style trend in golf is changing towards a tighter fit and you see guys who are in much better shape. We’re trying to attract a younger population to our market and branding. We’re interested in young players right now who are rising stars, ”added Dempsey.
Speaking of better shape, as with many European brands, Chervò fits better than most domestic mass market brands, which may require a sizing.
“American brands typically do sizing cosmetics to make us feel much better. They can be one size larger than the traditional US size. I like to say that this is actually feasible, ”says Dempsey.
Brand collaborations are another avenue that Chervò is pursuing to reach new customers. They recently teamed up with Movitra to create a pair of limited editions Chervò sunglasses for golfers.
The fact that the Ryder Cup lands in Italy for the first time in 2023 is another opportunity to showcase the brand. While Loro Piana will provide the look of the European squad on and off the pitch, Chervò is a licensee of the tournament and will bring out a clothing line to coincide with the biennial team competition. They expect their logo to be well represented in the crowds of fans in attendance.
“We are the largest golf clothing brand in Italy and in many European countries. Since this event will draw travelers from all over Europe, I expect a lot with very well dressed spectators, ”says Dempsey.