Despite being a successful entrepreneur, business owner and designer, Elyse Walker is really a retailer at the end of the day.
Walker has a growing contemporary line called ThePerfext (pronounced “perfect”), online business in Forward by Elyse Walker and her original namesake storefront on the charming Antioch Street in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. But she’s most at home on the sales floor, where — as she tells it — “the customer comes first.”
On a recent afternoon, Walker personally greeted customers and periodically stopped mid-sentence to voice concern over what sales associates were tending to which clients at her store — all between updates on her growing businesses.
ThePerfext, which Walker created with Sable Banoun — who began working at the Elyse Walker store nearly 15 years ago and has her own Los Angeles label, Bsable — is steadily growing, and introduced cashmere for resort and holiday. The line, which began with the vision of creating the perfect 10 pieces (hence the roman numeral “X” in the name) is heavy on buttery-soft leather jackets and fringe.
“I’ve been on the sales floor since I’m 14,” Walker said. “There’s basics that sell and sell and sell. They don’t have to be plain; it’s just [for example] the perfect jean jacket, the perfect blazer. So I always had in the back of my head I’m going to start this line.”
ThePerfext is now in about 50 stores globally since its launch about a year ago. “It’s been retailing really well,” Banoun said. “All the stores that we’re in have been reordering.”
Still, the company’s seeking conservative growth, she explained. “We don’t want to go so high and then [fall] so low,” Banoun said. “We just want to consistently grow.”
The line, in fact, received a large order from a department store, but it was suggested to the retailer that it be pared back. “Trust me, we wanted the order, but we also wanted them to do well with the line,” Walker said. “My father once told me: ‘No one ever went out of business for having too little merchandise…and no one ever went out of business because their store was too little.’ It’s only when it gets too big. So [his advice] always kind of sits there in my head.”
ThePerfext is now building out 2,500 square feet of headquarters space in downtown Los Angeles to move operations from the Elyse Walker store storage room into more suitable settings as it grows. The buildout is expected to be complete in September.
An e-commerce component for ThePerfext is not in the immediate cards, Walker said, despite her savvy when it comes to bridging the luxury and online worlds. Walker and her store employees have shown a knack for leveraging Instagram to market new items in store and fully styled outfits. There’s also Forward by Elyse Walker. It’s a business she partnered with Michael Mente and Mike Karanikolas, founders of Cerritos, Calif.-based Revolve Clothing, about four years ago to start the online boutique.
Forward was reportedly on track to hit $100 million in sales last year, although a Revolve spokesperson said the company doesn’t break out the financial performance of its individual businesses and declined to confirm if that target was met. The Revolve and Forward business saw combined sales of $270 million last year, according to the company.
And then there’s the store Walker opened in 1999, at 800 square feet, that’s expanded four times since then and currently totals 6,500 square feet.
Walker hired Summer Holl, who was most recently regional director at Intermix, about six months ago to come on as vice president. The position is a first at the company. “We would like to be in a position to potentially grow, both online and in store, and ThePerfext,” Walker said. “There’s times where you’re trying to maintain your business. There’s times that you’re trying to change the vibe. Right now all companies are really growing infrastructure for growth.”
Holl helped open Intermix’s first Los Angeles store and the chain grew to about 19 stores while she was there.
She’s now tasked with building out the Elyse Walker management team and the rest of the company’s infrastructure. She began with streamlining operations, moved on to customer service that accommodated the store’s growing international clientele and is now looking at visual merchandising.
“We’re just really pacing ourselves so that we don’t change too [fast],” Holl said. “[The sales associates are] doing so many amazing things. I just look to see where we can grow on what we already have.”
As for whether there could be more Elyse Walker boutiques in the future, Walker simply smiled and allowed: “I would never say ‘no’ to practically anything.”