“My father was born in 1914 in Germany and he didn’t get along with Adolf Hitler. So one of them had to leave. Adolf didn’t want to leave so my father had to escape. He was demonstrating against him. They were shooting at each other. It was quite tough.” He’s almost laid back in the re-telling of the story.

But Claes Röhnisch’s description of his father Hellmut’s flight from Germany in the early 1930s was anything but relaxed. With the Nazis about to come to power, the teenager was in grave danger. Anti-Hitler and part of the trade union movement, he would certainly have figured on the new chancellor’s wanted list had he remained.

Along with a group of like-minded countrymen, he escaped the Fatherland and avoided arrest. Getting out of Germany, though, was only the first step. Young Hellmut then had to find new pastures.

Rohnisch“He walked to Sweden,” Röhnisch reveals. The back way – through Poland  Finland and all that. It took a year.”

When you consider the courage and determination that must have taken – to fight oppression, to flee and then trek thousands of miles to find a new place to belong – it is no surprise the brand which bears his name has endured for more than seven decades.

Röhnisch has emerged as one of golf ’s biggest fashion labels for women. In a saturated market, their bold, distinctive, patterns clearly stand out on any clubhouse rail. Golf apparel, though, was far removed from the company’s original intentions. It was Claes, coming into the family firm in the 1970s, who would lead Röhnisch into clothing.

Back in 1945 though, the Örebro-based business was born out of a much simpler premise.Rohnisch“My father became the first Swedish champion in gymnastics,” Claes says. “When he was out competing, he bought some old equipment, brought it back and sold it at a profit. “That’s how the company actually started, with gymnastic equipment. It went on and it got bigger and bigger but really only with equipment.

“I started in the mid 1970s and he had some small clothing but not very much. It came to my mind and I don’t know why it did but I said ‘let’s focus on clothing’. We started and it went very well in the beginning. Then it became tough.”

Remember those Jane Fonda and Olivia Newton-John videos? They heralded a fitness boom in the 1980s that looked like it might never end. But when people latch on to a good thing, competition increases – rapidly.

It was enough to bring Röhnisch to the brink before, echoing the grit his father had shown five decades earlier, Claes discovered an ingredient that changed everything.

“I found microfibre,” he explains.Everyone knows what that is now but I was the first to make sporting clothing with microfibre – at least in Europe, as far as I know.Rohnisch“It was at the beginning of the 90s. That became very popular, the company increased and was running very well but it was still only fitness clothing.”

It was in 2002 that Röhnisch made a dramatic shift. Not only did they launch into golf, they decided to only make clothes for women. You might think Claes agonised over the decision but, to paraphrase Tom Watson at the Ryder Cup, he let his gut do the talking for him.

“We had a designer who said to me ‘Claes, shouldn’t we do some golf clothing?’ ‘Why?’ I said. ‘No, I don’t think so’,” he remembers. “But she went on. ‘Come on’, she said. ‘Let’s try’. So what we did was put collars on the gymnastics tops. Then we created some trousers – and we had a golf collection.

“That’s how it started. In the same year, we also decided to cater for women only. Before that, we had designed men’s and women’s. “I did no research at all. It was just a stomach feeling. She said ‘let’s try’. I said ‘okay, let’s try’. It was a very good decision. “To go women-only was the best decision we ever made.RohnischThere was lots of discussion – ‘how much men shall we do, how much women?’ Some clever guy then said ‘Why don’t you make women only?’ Let’s do it. “It’s all about focus – on something that you are good at – and surrounding yourself with the right people. Like we do now in the UK. We have very good people here. We can see we are expanding all the time.”

Now in some 23 countries, with emerging markets in Hong Kong and Australia as well as Europe, new investment will pave the way for even further expansion in the future.

Claes, who remains on the board and whose son, Fredrik, is the managing director, is not surprised by Röhnisch’s success. He explains: “When I looked at what was on the market I could see there was big potential – the design, the material and the quality. I think we are top notch and at a reasonable price level. We are not very cheap, but not very expensive either. You get a lot for the money.Rohnisch“We have only female designers and, more or less, only female reps. They know what they need. They make the fitting. It is genuine from the very start. “When I see people wearing Röhnisch, I feel very proud. It’s a fantastic feeling to see that.”

And he firmly believes Röhnisch has not yet reached the ceiling. “I am very excited. Still. Even though we have been profitable all the time and been growing, we feel we haven’t been growing fast enough.”

Watch out, world.

You can find out more Rohnisch and see the full range on their website and view the golf collection. You can also like them on Facebook and Instagram: @rohnisch.


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