Hi-Tec founder Frank van Wezel has bought a new Italian golf chic lifestyle footwear brand, Duca del Cosma, which he will introduce to the South African market later this year after a successful European launch in 2016. Having sold Hi-Tec International to Cherokee (see more here) he retains the license for the Hi-Tec SA subsidiary, which he likens to retaining a relationship with his favourite girlfiend.

Frank van Wezel (right) with Mickey Mallett, GM of Hi-Tec SA. Photo: Nicol du Toit

He knew that Hi-Tec SA was well-run and would therefore not require much work from him. He also knew that he was far from ready to retire at age 75. So he bought a new brand.

About a decade ago Hi-Tec sold quite a lot of golf shoes, which they dropped when the economic downturn almost decimated the golf market. “As I went around to the golf shops, I almost drooled over the shoes of a brand called Duca del Cosma,” Van Wezel recounts. “They were so beautiful! Real Italian beauties.”

Then, last year he read in the Sporting Goods Intelligence magazine that Duca del Cosma had been liquidated. Without hesitation he contacted the liquidator and the result is that he relaunched the brand in Europe in the last quarter of 2016 as Italian golf chic on the street (See www.ducadelcosma.com).

The chic Duca del Cosma lifestyle range is inspired by golf (photo: Duca del Cosma)

He rented a new office in Holland, within walking distance of his house, and appointed ten people — among them the former Duca del Cosma designer who is now on board as creative director tasked with producing beautiful shoes. PR Director Caroline van Wezel (his wife) has compiled style and media books to show retailers the extent and chic Italian designs of the range (see above).

Frank van Wezel with his wife Caroline, who is Duca del Cosma PR Director (photo: courtesy Hi-Tec).

The brand used to be available in a number of countries — on a very modest scale in South Africa as well, but all the distributors are gone. Van Wezel and Hi-Tec SA general manager, Mickey Mallett, therefore agreed that the brand will locally be distributed as a division of Hi-Tec SA.

Van Wezel knew if he remains focused on the golf market, the brand will remain small. “I wanted something small, but not THAT small!” He therefore created a lifestyle collection, which he clearly cherishes, just like others would enjoy their art collections. He enthuses about the sleek designs, the nice fresh colours, but above all, the golf shoe base that provides technology.

The Ischia shoe from  Duca del Cosma (Photo: courtesy of Duca del Cosma)

This range will be aimed at a completely different market to Hi-Tec and he will appoint a new sales force to introduce them to local upmarket lifestyle stores. Worldwide, sport retailers who embrace lifestyle are the most successful, and he is therefore confident that the new brand will do well.

The reason why Duca del Cosma went bankrupt had nothing to do with their footwear, says Van Wezel. “Apparel killed them.” Due to late deliveries from China they missed a season and battled to sell dated stock with the new stock. In fashion it is impossible to sell anything that is already out of fashion and the owner ran out of money. Van Wezel will therefore be concentrating on footwear.

The Lifetime Achievement award plaque Nyenrode University erected outside the new Hi-Tec Hall that will be the home of their sports department.

Last year was a momentous year for Frank van Wezel: he turned 75, sold Hi-Tec, bought a new brand and also received a Lifetime Achievement award from Nyenrode University. He received the reward on the day they unveiled the new Hi-Tec Hall at the university, where future sports industry leaders will be trained.