Elyse Walker, whose namesake boutique in Pacific Palisades is said to be one of the most profitable per-square-foot multibrand stores in the U.S., is expanding her footprint in the beachside enclave with a new retail concept called Towne by Elyse Walker.
Set to debut Sept. 22 across the street from the Elyse Walker flagship in Rick Caruso’s Palisades Village, also a new concept from the developer, Towne is a 1,500-square-foot “luxury basics store” aiming to fulfill the everyday needs of Walker’s high-fashion female clientele, as well as men.
The localized, specialized trend driving Palisades Village and its tenants is also an opportunity for widespread expansion — Walker surmises that there could be “10, 20, 30 Townes. It’s the kind of concept you could open everywhere,” she said.
Having migrated from her native New York to Los Angeles in the Nineties, Walker’s natural merchant and fashion instincts (she grew up in the shoe business) mean she’s still hands-on in her original store, even as she’s opened a second location in Newport Beach’s Lido Marina Village in 2016 and helms the contemporary e-commerce destination Forward by Elyse Walker, in partnership with Revolve.
“I still like to touch and feel product and be in the dressing room with my customer,” said Walker, who noted that half of her designer boutique business is stylist-appointment-based.
As for six-year-old Forward, which offers a mix of merchandise tailored to the contemporary online shopper, “there’s still a lot work to be done and room to grow, but Caruso reached out a few years ago when they started developing Palisades Village. At first, we said, ‘No it’s not for us,’ and were tiny cheerleaders on the side offering suggestions for other tenants. After constantly saying, ‘I just want to support the town,’ that’s how we came up with the idea.”
Walker said she’s always wanted to expand without cannibalizing her original business. “One thing we always feel we don’t have enough room for is basics. I’m not talking white t-shirts, and not based on price point. It’s the grab-and-go piece that you wear every day and never have enough of.”
That could be a $60 pair of cotton shorts from Xirena or a $248 pair of cropped Mother jeans, pieces she describes as “more eastside L.A. girl and downtown New Yorker.”
“In my high-fashion stores, I have never seen a cardigan go on sale. I could invest in a runway dress or cardigan, but from a business perspective investing in a cardigan makes a lot of sense. We could double our business, maybe more, in certain lines if we had room for them,” she said.
Walker will dip back into men’s wear after trying it briefly in 2008. “It was tricky then and it still is, but men need to shop and I think they have gotten better at in 10 years,” she said,
Palisades Village’s family-friendly concept, built around a park and with various food, fashion and entertainment attractions for the whole family, should draw men, who Walker hopes will come in to grab t-shirts, crewnecks, loafers and Chelsea boots.
Among the women’s labels Towne will stock are AMO denim, ATM, Common Projects and Golden Goose, and The Great. Brands like Nili Lotan will be split between both stores. For men, there will be Simon Miller, 6397, Tomas Maier and Officine Generale.
Walker said she could see her designer boutique growing to three, four or five locations, but “never 10.” Towne, she thinks, will make or exceed projections by serving the ever-growing casual contemporary and denim markets. Said Walker, “there could literally be one in every cute little town.”