By  on December 24, 2008

The name Greg Chait might ring a bell for a number of reasons. He’s best known to the fashion flock as a former chief executive officer of the denim label Ksubi. To Los Angeles night owls, he’s an investor in hip hot spots The Dime and Winston’s. Tabloid junkies, meanwhile, may identify him as a rumored past paramour of Ashley Olsen. But now there’s a new reason to become acquainted with Chait, 30, who was born in Toronto, raised in Phoenix and started his career at the Hollywood talent management agency The Firm. Since leaving Ksubi late last year, he has finally gone into business for himself with the launch of his own line, The Elder Statesman, a tony collection of sunglasses and Mongolian cashmere knits.

The curious moniker is actually a tribute to his older brother Paul, who died four years ago in a Phoenix shooting — and is not, Chait notes, from the T.S. Eliot play of the same name. “[The term] ‘elder statesman’ connotes someone who holds a high rank in society and is revered by all,” he explains. “My brother’s nickname was ‘The Mayor.’ He was a very fair guy, loved by all — so the name worked out well, really.” The collection itself, however, was inspired by an altogether different, and less poignant, source: a plain brown 12-gauge blanket.

“It was the most simple, standard cashmere blanket,” Chait recalls of the gift he received from a friend eight years ago. “I never had anything like that. It just fit into my life so well.” Soon enough, Chait found himself paying attention to other cozy covers and began amassing his own collection, with throws from Ralph Lauren, Hermès, Missoni and Lainey Keogh. “I liked the look and feel of them all over the place,” he continues. “Then I started conjuring up an idea of the perfect blanket.”

Cut to last November, when a friend introduced Chait to a knitting group in a small town near Vancouver. What began with commissioning a few handspun chunky blankets for himself has now evolved into a full-fledged collection. The Elder Statesman is already sold in such stores as Maxfield in Los Angeles, 4510 in Dallas and Barneys New York in Manhattan and, next March, Chait plans to hit Paris during fashion week to meet with more buyers and expand internationally. His artisan base already has grown beyond that initial Canadian guild. The lacy cable hoodies, for instance, are made by a man in Monza, Italy, while the Baja sweaters come from a group in Los Angeles that uses vintage handlooms. “I like the inconsistency of yarn when it’s handspun,” Chait says of the line’s decidedly craftsy feel. “You don’t know exactly what you’re going to get.” Next up? Chait is working on horse blankets done in collaboration with Navajos in the Four Corners region of the Southwestern U.S.

“The line is very much about how things are made, where they come from, who’s making them,” Chait remarks. “It’s very personal. If I’m going to buy something, I love to know there’s something behind it that makes it unique.” This is also one reason why, despite the rocky economy, he has no plans to change the collection’s rather steep prices, which range from $125 to $2,200 wholesale. “Each item has its own inherent value,” he says, before turning the conversation toward the new mode of discreet luxury. “It’s for comfort; it’s not disposable. In the times that we’re in, that’s translating quite well. I’m not planning on adjusting the prices.” Chait adds that his line comes with a lifetime guarantee.

As for what’s behind The Elder Statesman’s rather eclectic lineup, Chait has a simple explanation. “These are my favorite items — Baja sweaters, Chilean fishing jackets and hooded scarves,” he says. “They’re all the things I would want to use every single day.” Which is why the next category that Chait is introducing after knits is eyewear. Next summer, he’ll launch a line of handmade rose gold and buffalo-horn sunglasses sourced from Germany. “That was a natural progression,” he says. “These are things that are just in my world. I’ve been wearing glasses every day for [years]. I guess I’ve been doing the research since I was 12.”

 

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