In going against the current and innovating, Vesti Ascendi founder Ryan Heiman developed a product that not only payed homage to the traditions of the game of golf, but also solved a very contemporary problem: How one plays golf in a dress shirt and tie. In a short time, Vesti Ascendi, which Heiman founded in June of 2013, has grown from an idea to a brand that offers a functional golfing dress shirt and tie collection in colorways that cater to any man’s daily menswear needs.
MINOR|HOUSE had the opportunity to chat with Vesti Ascendi founder Ryan Heiman on his brand, the growing retro-inspired trend in golf, and just what makes a Vesti Ascendi shirt so special. Here is our conversation:
What inspired you to start Vesti Ascendi?
It came as a two-fold idea. The first, which is that I wear a shirt and tie to work all of the time, and was just frustrated with what I was able to purchase and what was out there. I looked at high-end stuff and just couldn’t find anything that I liked the comfort of, so I thought it would be pretty cool to make my own that had some features that were more comfortable than what I was finding. And then as a golfer and as a product reviewer – I write for Independent Golf Reviews, I found that having to write polo shirt reviews, that they’re kind of all the same just with different logos. So the idea came from both those avenues. I looked at old school stuff and black-and-white images where guys wore ties, and thought I’d make dress shirts that were comfortable enough to wear to work but that I could also go golf in right from the office.
And were you the type of golfer that was already wearing a shirt and tie to play golf before starting the brand? Or was that picked up in the genesis of creating the brand?
It was in the creating of the brand. Prior to creating the brand, I hadn’t ever really done it. I mean I looked at it, and really liked the look. I guess I really liked the old-school style where they tucked their tie into the shirt. But I suppose I never really spent too much time with it until I got going with the brand.
In creating the first prototype of the shirt, what was important in terms of design with regard to making it functional for the golf swing?
I spent a lot of time with the dress shirts I had; the ones I wore to the office and things like that. I looked at all the features of them and asked, “Why can’t I swing in one of these?” And then basically deconstructed the shirt and said: “I can’t swing in this because there’s no stretch to it, so obviously I have to get materials that have more stretch to it.”
As for other features, a lot of the shirts I have and looked at in stores, have the yolk across the back. So they put the seam right across the middle of your shoulder blades. Generally, in dress shirts, wherever there is a seam, there isn’t any stretch to it there. So in [Vesti Ascendi] shirts, they’re yokeless backs but I also put in what I call an “extension pleat” right across the middle of the back, which basically allows you to give yourself a hug without any restriction to the shirt.
And how did you come up with the name for the brand?
The name of the brand is actually Latin for “Dress Up” – I’m a fan of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ – or “Suit Up” – that kind of thought-process. So that all played into it. But for future expansion, I have some sketches and things that I’m working on to hopefully make a full-blown suit that you can golf in with stretch materials and things like that. So I’m still in the prototyping stages of that, figuring out what materials I need, but I have the design of the suit coat that you can play in as well.
The rest of your brand’s product offering is very non-traditional in terms of contemporary style and things of that nature. Have you purposefully geared your product offering toward an alternative golfing lifestyle, or will you move into products that cater more to the modern-day traditional golfer?
My thought is to be a lifestyle brand. I’m not really saying it’s a true retro-brand, because I don’t want to do knickers and things like that. The whole thought-process is to be, whether you’re golfing or not golfing, a brand that you can wear out on the town at night, or to church, or whatever function, and look good and be comfortable without people saying “You’re wearing golf attire.”
You mentioned that you’ve written on golf fashion, and from my perspective I’ve seen a growing trend of lifestyle-driven golf brands. Did you see this, and is that why you started the company?
I had been bouncing the idea around for two years or so. I mean, I definitely won’t say I was before all these other people. I saw that there were these people who were coming out with lifestyle brands and doing more on-off course type looks, so it wasn’t the Nike polo all the time. But I’ve seen it in other products too, where clubs and gear have had this retro movement as well. So I thought there was this niche in the market and I actually talked to a bunch of different companies to see if they had any thoughts of doing this themselves. In my reviewing process I kind of just put inquiries out there to see what people thought about it, and some of the bigger companies were like: “Well, we’re not going in that direction.” So I didn’t really find anyone trying to do this.
In your opinion, what do you think the appeal, and people’s affinity is with retro-inspired product?
Well I just think that there is always that sense of connecting with the past. Sometimes people see it as the purity of things, and they remember fondly of things in the past like when they were kids and people dressed like this. I think it just puts people in a good place.
And a lot of the brands that have been doing this have really been putting out quality stuff. When you mix some tradition with good quality, it’s appealing to people.
And other than writing on golf, do you have a deeper background in golf or fashion? Is Vesti Ascendi your first venture into the world of fashion?
I actually have no background in fashion. It’s really not a specialty, and it really came as more of a hobby and an interest. Golf has always been a hobby of mine. I started when I was 7 or 8 years old and have really been playing my whole life. But neither one of those are what pay the bills. My day job is that I’m a Lutheran pastor.
So again, a lot of the dressing up is that I’m always in a suit and tie and things like that. That’s where a lot of the force behind the brand came from. My schedule is really crazy, but I get these windows of opportunity where I don’t have anything scheduled and I can go and play golf or hit the range. So instead of having to get changed into my golf clothes, then afterward change back into my suit and tie, it’s really cool to be able to go right to the course in my shirt and tie.
Was there a big learning curve in starting your own apparel brand?
There was a lot of research that I had to do. I definitely wouldn’t call myself an expert of anything like that but I researched the fabric I was using, and how to make dress shirts, and where all the best stuff was coming from. So I did a lot of research into things like that. I really did my homework on the material side of things, and did a lot of work at home sketching shirt shapes. But in terms of the industry of making the shirts, I’ve relied heavily on the factory that I’m using in Peru and their expertise on the actual construction of the shirt.
Last question, Ryan. What can we expert from Vesti Ascendi in 2014?
I’ve got a women’s line that is all designed and pretty much ready to go. I’m just waiting for the shirts and ties to keep moving to a point where from an investment standpoint I can jump into the women’s line that is basically going to be a shirt and tie with a skort. I guess some would say it’s a schoolgirl look, but very classy. And I hoping to expand into things like outerwear, the suit with pants, and maybe sweaters in the fall of 2014.
The game of golf is evolving. MINOR|HOUSE helps you move with it. Founded in 2012 to serve as the singular portal for all things golf fashion and lifestyle, MINOR|HOUSE keeps you informed with the latest information on golf clothing, footwear, and accessories from the biggest corporations to smaller boutique operations. In INTERVIEWS, we also chat with key players and interesting people from not only golf, but all walks of life, to provide an unrivaled and fresh perspective on the game of golf, the world of fashion, and the lifestyle that it all entails.
Back9Network’s Holiday Gift Guides:
– Complete Back9Network 2013 Holiday Gift Guide
– Gift Guide: 9 Outstanding Charities
– Gift Guide: Top 9 Golf Getaways
– Gift Guide: Top 9 Electronics
– Gift Guide: Motorsports Lovers
– Gift Guide: Top 9 Drivers
– Gift Guide: Top 9 Irons
– Gift Guide: Top 9 Wedges
– Gift Guide: Fairways and Hybrids
– Gift Guide: Top 9 Beers
– Gift Guide: Top 9 Wines
– Gift Guide: Top 9 Liquors
– Gift Guide: Top 9 Gifts for Video Gamers
– Gift Guide: TrendyGolf’s Accessories
– Gift Guide: Top 9 Funny Golf T-Shirts