Even on the golf course, polo shirts and knee-length shorts are starting to look prehistoric. Women golfers who know their lulu from their lemon want to tee up in flattering and form-fitting styles that feel on par with the high-end athletic brands they wear to the gym.
Lisa Mandile is one of them. The Eden Prairie designer hits the green at least twice a week and has never felt comfortable in the conservative boxy styles that typify the sport. “I couldn’t find the right pieces for myself, and neither could my friends,” says the 5-foot-9-inch lanky blonde. “I wanted to start a line that was cool, body conscious, and feminine.” She was fortunate to know a great seamstress, with whom she worked when she was designing a bag line, DiLi Girls, several years ago. “I sent Ann my crude sketches, and she nailed the prototypes.”
Tzu Tzu, which launched in April 2011, is named after Mandile’s dearly departed shih tzu dogs. The clothes are made by a team of sewers here in Minnesota. Mandile tracks down the silky spandex-lycra blend fabrics in a range of colors and patterns—minty green, hot tangerine, pink ombré, royal blue, and white cheetah.
The designer had to work within the confines of club dress codes, some stricter than others, to ensure her pieces met certain standards. For instance, in order to play at most clubs and wear a sleeveless top, it must have a collar—so she created a classic zipper and a mandarin style. The designer is also very picky about smooth draping, so she placed a small pocket on the top back of her skirts. “Gaping pocket holes on the sides are so unflattering,” she says. “I like that my skirts are seamless in the front, and I can pair them with a matching top to give the illusion of one sleek dress.”
At first, Mandile quietly tested Tzu Tzu at a few metro area country clubs to see what kind of response she would get—only a few close friends were aware that it was hers. Then last July, while attending a tournament at Golden Valley Country Club, where she’s a member, Mandile walked into the locker room and saw eight women wearing her skirts and tops. “It was my Sally Field moment,” she says. “I was so moved that I almost had to walk into a bathroom stall to cry.” Tzu Tzu is sold at Golden Valley, Lafayette, and Wayzata country clubs. Now Mandile is branching out to other golf hotbeds—currently, the line is in Florida and Arizona.
She’s learned that women of all body types are into her styles. “I have the young hip-ripped chicks and the more mature women buying from me—what they have in common is they want to wear something fun and sassy on the course,” Mandile says. She hopes the pros will start paying attention too. A new LPGA golfer, Kaitlin Drolson, the niece of a friend, plans to wear Tzu Tzu on tour—which means fresh brand exposure for spring when golf season gets into full swing. tzutzusport.com