A Stylish Balance: Meet Travis Johnson, and the next hot line in golf apparel
These days, your fashion choices say a lot about your personality. There are so many choices in golf apparel that it’s pretty easy to express yourself. But that hasn’t always been the case. And that never sat well with Travis Johnson.
Johnson was a member of the UCLA golf team in the early 2000s, a team that included future TOUR players and SCGA Amateur Championship winners that included John Merrick, Spencer Levin, Parker McLachlin, and Roy Moon. Each evening after a tournament on the road, the team would dine together at a restaurant, but not before first making a pit stop.
“The minute we got done with a round, most of us would race to the hotel and change out of our clothes to go out to dinner,” remembers Johnson. “That was certainly a discovery point for me. Why couldn’t you just untuck your shirt and feel like you were wearing something cool enough to go out in?”
It was clear to Johnson that something was missing from the marketplace. No appropriate golf attire existed that really resonated with him and his peer group, and after an attempt at a professional golf career, Johnson stashed the clubs and dove head first into the fashion business.
“I was just coming back from the final stage of qualifying school for the European Tour and was on my way to compete in second stage for PGA TOUR qualifying when I decided to make the switch,” he says. “To go overseas and see the fashion there and already be so familiar with the fashion here, it became obvious to me that we were really lacking a brand with a highly unique and different style that would appeal to my age group. I had always been keen on fashion, so that’s when I just got fed up and decided to figure it out on my own.”
And he did. After a successful jaunt co-launching the now-popular TravisMathew brand, Johnson is on to his next venture. These days, he’s going full speed ahead on the Haus of Grey Coöperative, a holding company that currently consists of two house brands, Matte Grey and Heather Grey, men’s and women’s golf clothing lines, respectively.
“When I started TravisMathew, I wanted to create a brand that resonated with me and my peers,” Johnson says. “I wanted a brand that was different than what was currently out there. We’re doing that again now at the Haus of Grey, and doing it with new price points. Our brands are aspirational, but also attainable.”
Launching in March 2013, Matte Grey is already being sold in 250 facilities across the country, including Southland courses such as Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, Monarch Beach in Dana Point, and The Grand Del Mar in San Diego, as well as local golf retailers including Roger Dunn Golf Shops. All polos and shorts are priced at $70 and below to keep with Johnson’s vision of accessibility for golfers of a younger age.
But what Johnson hopes will truly set the brand apart from competitors is Heather Grey, the line of female clothing set to launch January. Few boutique companies have committed to a women’s line in the past.
“A few industry veterans who we’re close with said that we shouldn’t dabble in that space because it’s so challenging . . . but this whole industry is challenging,” Johnson says. “We were able to breakthrough with the men’s line, so to use that same theory and methodology with a women’s line, we should have a good shot at it.”
Along with his business/design partner Kelli Marie Riley, Johnson and his team bring a unique history to the operation, with backgrounds in both golf and fashion to help the brand come to life. Johnson revealed they were headhunted by different brands as Haus of Grey was coming together, but as they entered into design room after design room, they saw something was missing.
“All of these design rooms were filled with fashion degrees, yet no one of real competitive golf experiences,” he says. “For us, it’s key to have both. All of our products have a golf component to them, from the pockets to the fits to the styles and colors. But they are also all versatile enough to fit in the world outside of golf as well.”
And the entire experience is truly a team effort, as Johnson takes the word ‘coöperative’ from his holding company’s name very seriously. “We want everyone to be on an equal playing field and work together for a common goal,” he says. “That way, everyone has a stake in the company. We advocate that strongly around the office.”
That sort of attitude translated into the Coöp, a membership of sorts for the brand’s avid fans and subscribers. But even with the unique things going on with the company, for Johnson it always goes back to the clothes, and that original vision he had in his mid 20s.
“There’s a preserve element and a progress element to golf fashion,” Johnson says. “It’s really important to remember where golf came from, but all the while make sure it doesn’t get stuck in one place. That’s a careful balance, but I think that’s exactly what we’ve achieved.”