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Fairway Fox
Fairway Fox's clothing, all made in New York, features Coolmax wicking fabric for moisture management on the golf field.
TODAY contributor
updated 7/3/2012 9:16:34 AM ET 2012-07-03T13:16:34

Skirts featuring gold buckles and back-exposed zippers. Slim-fitting polo shirts with long silhouettes. Hand-woven fedoras with grosgrain ribbons. These are not your average golf clothes.

Though inspired by the latest looks on the runway, these fashions are part of a new line of clothing designed for the fairway. Fairway Fox golf wear, founded by Kate O’Connor and launched in January at the PGA Merchandise Show, provides stylish athletic gear for women that is practical at the same time.

O’Connor was frustrated by what she saw as a lack of performance material used in golf clothes and the fact that many she purchased were dry clean only, which added a hassle as well as an unnecessary expense. “I couldn’t be comfortable if I wanted to be cute,” she said. “I couldn’t be cute if I wanted to be comfortable. They were mutually exclusive. I was looking for it to be functional.”

Her main priorities were creating clothes that were machine washable, with moisture-wicking fabric, and that were fair — “not made in some sweatshop in China.”

Just as importantly, O’Connor said, was style. Some existing golf clothing lines were very sophisticated, others were almost too cutesy. “There really was nothing in the middle — sophisticated, but it has a little more flair,” she said, describing Fairway Fox’s first season as “Tory Burch-esque.”

The best of American-made fashion brands

Fairway Fox was in good company at the golf industry’s largest trade show. According to Ed Several, senior vice president of PGA Worldwide Golf Exhibitions, January’s show was the platform for the introduction of equipment, apparel, accessories and golf-related products for more than 1,000 companies and brands.

“Fairway Fox is one of several new women’s golf apparel lines that have successfully identified an important niche in outfitting women who play golf and are looking for fashionable clothing that can be worn both on and off the golf course,” Several said, noting that success for the company would mean expansion for women’s interest in golf.

Fairway Fox
Fairway Fox founder Kate O’Connor is committed to producing her line in America.

“With the industry-wide campaign to grow women’s participation,” he said, “companies like Fairway Fox stand out in their efforts catering to women looking for more modern, trendy fashions that embody an active golf lifestyle.”

A natural fit
Fairway Fox is a side business for O’Connor, who works in the financial services industry. She comes from a golfing family in California’s Bay Area and has played her whole life. In addition, her 14 years of analyzing businesses gave her the right skills to develop a viable company, which took three years from concept to testing prototypes to launch.

“It’s a jobby — a job that’s a hobby,” O’Connor said of Fairway Fox, which is now carried in 20 shops — from Hawaii to New York, California to Ohio — and is available online at Fairwayfox.com.

O’Connor has a hand in all aspects of the business, creating designs, working with the factory and selling her wares at trunk shows. “Doing it in Manhattan, I can get on a subway and go to the factory to be right there and see what’s happening,” she said. In addition to keeping jobs local and supporting the city she loves, O’Connor said she hopes the clothes’ “Made in Manhattan” labels — which feature the island as a putting green with a golf flag stick in it — will lend additional cachet. “I just thought that people would appreciate that if I was going to sell something that was golf wear … it came from the fashion capital of the world,” she said.

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One mom's challenge: Buy only ‘Made in USA’ for one week

Customers have responded. “I chose to make it in America,” she said. “But how many people have asked me, ‘Where is this made?’ is so many more people than I ever, ever thought would ask me that question. It’s important to them. I just did what felt natural to me. It didn’t occur to me that it would be such a selling point and it really, really was. People really care.”

Making it in America comes at a price though.

Fairway Fox’s prices are on the high end for women’s golf apparel, partly due to the higher cost of producing the line in New York. According to the Association of Golf Merchandisers, the average retail price of shirts sold in public, private and resort shops is $44.78. Fairway Fox polo shirts sell for $90, while just 6.1 percent of shirts sold in on-course shops and 4 percent of shirts sold in off-course shops were $75 or higher.

Driving success
Women have rallied behind the fashions as well. “I think anytime you can give women something pretty to wear, it’s helpful to them,” O’Connor said. Added features like a ring snap that secures it into a front pocket — something she’s looking to patent — have pleased players as they hit the links.

And it’s not just golfers getting into the sporty dresses and skorts. One customer told her she doesn’t play golf but she bought the skorts because she can be fashionable while still being able to pick up and play with her kids. “It genuinely warmed my heart,” O’Connor said, adding, “It’s perfect for moms who do that whole Lululemon thing. They do other stuff but just want to look nice.”

Artisan craze helps drive boom in craft booze

Desane Blaney, executive director of the Association of Golf Merchandisers, a Phoenix-based non-profit organization of golf professionals and buyers, said Fairway Fox is on the right track in terms of its mission of functionality and style, as major brands like Peter Millar Ladies, Sport Haley, EP Pro and Calloway set the trend for a “preppy, beach-chic kind of look.”

Fairway Fox
Woven entirely by hand in Manhattan, Fairway Fox's visor is made to easily pack into a golf bag.

“Women will pay the price for the right garment,” Blaney said, “but they don’t just want it to be a one-use kind of garment.”

And they are discerning buyers as well. According to the Association of Golf Merchandisers, ladies’ merchandise comprises about 13 percent of the overall business in a golf shop, behind golf clubs and men’s clothing, which makes up about 26 percent. “We ladies are shoppers,” Blaney said. “Men, if they like it, they buy it [in different colors].”

Word of mouth has been growing in the first several months, based on website sales from areas where clubs carry Fairway Fox.  “It’s not like there was a marketing effort,” O’Connor said. “Word got out ... it was grassroots, just somebody talking to somebody else, and that’s fun.”

It’s also enjoyable for her to use the creative side of her brain. “I literally work 60 hours a week, if not more than that, at the financial services firm,” she said. “This is another part of me that I just wasn’t utilizing. For somebody else, it’s painting something. For me, this is fun.”

And if O’Connor helps to grow the sport of golf, that’s even better. “I am hopeful, like in many cases, that if you look good, you feel good. To the extent that our clothes make women feel good and that might propel them to be more excited about their golf game, yes, I would say that we are helping women play the game.”

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: Stylish threads and treads that were made in the USA

  1. Closed captioning of: Stylish threads and treads that were made in the USA

    >>> we are back with our special series "made in america ." today's tuesday trend takes a patriotic turn.

    >> here with her favorite americana finds is our "today" style editor bobbie thomas.

    >> i'm so excited. britney mom's kathie is here with us. britney is one of our favorite people here at the "today" show. at today.com we are kicking off a whole made in america week along with you. we are going to pick a contest winner, too. there are many dedicated designers like lynette lapore and jason laroux who make things here in the usa . this is a signature front twist dress.

    >> i've seen that on hoda.

    >> she manufacturers it here in new york. for independence it's $99 for the sleeve and sleeveless version.

    >> does it have give in the fabric?

    >> it's so comfortable.

    >> it's not too thin. has a slip underneath. her bag which we'll show, and earrings, all made in america .

    >> beautiful. thank you.

    >> we love your daughter.

    >> then made in america , we love our blue jeans . one of my girlfriends designs one of the best fitting blue jeans here. made in america with love. habitual, j. brands. you can find anything. on the website i list where you can buy them. you can find any color, any wash, any size.

    >> and they fit.

    >> any fit for anyone.

    >> these are fun.

    >> i want to point something cool out. you can search for made in america on department store websites. nordstrom. you type in the search "made in the usa " it will show you items made in the u.s. i'm wearing a dress from nordstrom that is $80, made in the usa . whoops, there is a slip on the side. macy's, bar 3, you want to see that it's made in the usa . most of the time lane bryant , that does it. you can make that extra step to search for made in the usa .

    >> it's possible.

    >> and it's easy. american designers are stylish. i love this website called keep america .com. they source all things from jewelry like this which is great to home goods. gorgiana, great accessories like handbags and leather bracelets and statement jewelry. beautiful stuff again. everything is listed online. shoes. feel these inside. these are sandals made in california.

    >> oh, gosh.

    >> this is like walking on pillows, plus you get the heel. i swear by these. growing up in l.a. i loved this line sbicca. this is so great. ohka bee. these flats are adorable, with or without the embellishment. last but not least when i was showing off my underwear, this is one of my favorite lines, far west . they can extend the short dress. this is helping me get away with wearing this dress. they have the chemise in long or the skirt version. it is such a saving

Photos: America's national parks

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  1. Acadia

    Acadia National Park in Maine boasts the highest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic Coast and was the first national park east of the Mississippi River. Visitors beware: temperatures can vary 40 degrees -- from 45 degrees to 85 degrees in the summer and from 30 degrees to 70 degrees in the spring and fall. (Gareth Mccormack / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Rocky Mountain

    Bear Lake, with mountainside aspens changing colors in mid-autumn, is one of the popular attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. (Universal Images Group via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Badlands

    The climate in South Dakota's Badlands National Park is extreme. Temperatures range from minus 40 degrees in the dead of winter to 116 degrees in the height of summer. Visitors are drawn to the park's rugged beauty as well as the area's rich fossil beds. (Mark Newman / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Yosemite

    One of the nation's first wilderness parks, Yosemite is known for its waterfalls, scenic valleys, meadows and giant sequoias. (Robert Galbraith / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. North Cascades National Park

    The North Cascades National Park complex offers something for everyone: Monstrous peaks, deep valleys, hundreds of glaciers and phenominal waterfalls. The complex includes the park, Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas. (David Mcnew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Zion

    This spectacular corner of southern Utah is a masterpiece of towering cliffs, deep red canyons, mesas, buttes and massive monoliths. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Redwood

    Created in 1968, Redwood National Park is located in Northern California. Today, visitors to the national park can enjoy the massive trees as well as an array of wildlife. (David Gotisha / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Joshua Tree

    Joshua Tree National Park is located in southeast California. The area was made a national monument in 1936 and a national park in 1994. Outdoor enthusiasts can go hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Great Smoky Mountains

    Straddling the Tennessee-North Carolina border, Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses more than 800 square miles in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Visitors can expect mild winters and hot, humid summers, though temperatures can differ drastically as the park's elevation ranges from 800 feet to more than 6,600 feet. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Arches

    More than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, many of them recognizable worldwide, are preserved in Utah's Arches National Park. Temperatures can reach triple digits in the summer and can drop to below freezing in the winter. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Grand Teton

    The Snake River flows through Grand Teton National Park, and the jagged Teton Range rises above the sage-covered valley floor. Daytime temperatures during summer months are frequently in the 70s and 80s, and afternoon thunderstorms are common. (Anthony P. Bolante / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Haleakala

    Visitors watch the sun rise at 10,000 feet in Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii. If weather permits, visitors at the top of the mountain can see three other Hawaiian islands. (The Washington Post via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Grand Canyon

    Grand Canyon National Park is perhaps the most recognizable national park. Nearly 5 million visitors view the mile-deep gorge every year, formed in part by erosion from the Colorado River. The North and South rims are separated by a 10-mile-wide canyon. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Yellowstone

    Yellowstone National Park, America's first national park, was established in 1872. The park spans parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Grizzly bears, wolves, bison and elk live in the park. It is well known for Old Faithful and other geothermal features. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Mount Rainier

    Glaciers. Rainforests. Hiking trails. Mount Rainier National Park, located in Washington state, offers incredible scenery and a diverse ecology. The park aims to be carbon neutral by 2016. (National Park Service) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Hawaii Volcanoes

    Two of the world's most active volcanoes can be found within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In 1980, the national park was designated an International Biosphere Reserve; in 1987, it was added as a World Heritage Site. (David Jordan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Everglades

    Everglades National Park covers the nation's largest subtropical wilderness. It is also a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance. Visitors to the park can camp, boat, hike and find many other ways to enjoy the outdoors. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Glacier

    A view from atop the Grinnell Glacier Overlook trail in Glacier National Park. With more than 700 miles of trails the park is known for its glaciers, forests, alpine meadows and beautiful lakes. (Matt McKnight / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Bryce Canyon

    Located in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its distinctive geological structures called "hoodoos." (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Crater Lake

    The brilliant blue Crater Lake, located in southern Oregon, was formed when Mount Mazama, standing at 12,000 feet, collapsed 7,700 years ago after a massive eruption. Crater Lake is one of the world's deepest lakes at 1,943 feet. (David Gotisha / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Olympic

    Washington state's Olympic National Park offers visitors beaches on the Pacific Ocean, glacier-capped mountain peaks and everything in between. Keep the weather in mind when visiting, though, as roads and facilities can be affected by wind, rain and snow any time of year. (National Park Service) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Sequoia and Kings Canyon

    A woman stands among a grove of a Giant Sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park in Central California. The trees, which are native to California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, are the world's largest by volume, reaching heights of 275 feet and a ground level girth of 109 feet. The oldest known Giant Sequoia based on its ring count is 3,500 years old. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Denali

    Alaska's Denali National Park spans 6 million acres and includes the 20,320-foot Mount McKinley, North America's tallest peak. Many park visitors try to catch a glimpse of the "big five" -- moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves and grizzly bear. (National Park Service) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Kenai Fjords National Park

    The National Park Service considers the 8.2-mile round-trip on Harding Icefield Trail in Alaska's Kenai Fjords National Park to be strenuous, saying hikers gain about 1,000 feet of elevation with each mile. (National Park Service via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Death Valley

    California's Death Valley encompasses more than 3.3 million acres of desert wilderness. In 1849, a group of gold rush pioneers entered the Valley, thinking it was a shortcut to California. After barely surviving the trek across the area, they named the spot "Death Valley." In the 1880s, native peoples were pushed out by mining companies who sought the riches of gold, silver, and borax. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Wind Cave

    Bison graze in Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. Millions of bison were slaughtered by white hunters who pushed them to near-extinction by the late 1800s. Recovery programs have brought the bison numbers up to nearly 250,000. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Canyonlands

    The Lower Basins Zone is outlined by the white rim edge as seen from the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Shenandoah

    Fall colors blanket the Shenandoah National Park, drawing tourists to Skyline Drive to view the scenery. (Karen Bleier / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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