LOS ANGELES — With the launch of its first e-commerce and online platform on Tuesday, The Elder Statesman aims to fuse the artisanal nature of its luxury cashmere products with the ease of one-click shopping.
Presented as a multimedia snapshot of the sun-dappled California lifestyle inhabited by founder Greg Chait and his cohorts, the site, designed by New York and London-based agency Wednesday, combines discovery and commerce.
“After six years in the business, I’ve been blessed that the press has done a great of telling our story, but now I want to put our own platform out there as well. It’s our time to start communicating,” said Chait, who added that “until three years in, I didn’t believe I had a company; I regarded it as a project.”
That’s indicative of the measured way Chait approaches business. “The arc of a luxury brand is much slower, and I don’t think our core clients are swayed by marketing. The core has always been about the product.”
The product — from a $2,095 Baja sweater to a $9,000 sleeping bag — is displayed in an endless-scroll collage of movable tiles containing movies, look book images, lifestyle shots and product shots on the site’s homepage, atop a full-bleed backdrop live feed of Chait’s favorite California surf spots. With one click, the images can be displayed in a linear fashion, or dragged into any layout the user chooses. Those that appear framed in blue when clicked can be bought; gray frames indicate content. A navigation bar on the left directs users to women’s, unisex, kids, home and accessories categories, as well as a page that fields custom requests.
“If someone sends us an e-mail, they are going to get a phone call back from a real person who just deals with custom orders. She will Skype with you or even fly out to you. We still want to encourage one-on-one interaction on our site,” said Chait.
The Elder Statesman started six years ago with a cashmere blanket, sold at Maxfield, and has since grown into a ready-to-wear collection and a slew of one-offs — 600 different styles — that sell in about 65 stores worldwide, including Isetan, Barneys New York, Net-a-porter and L’Eclaireur. With the exception of classic pieces such as cashmere T-shirts, caps and baja sweaters, each piece is unique and produced in Chait’s own factory in Culver City.
“They each have a different collection. The core customer knows that piece is not going to be all over the world.” Chait said his e-commerce will not compete with stores because each sells different items. The company’s wholesale accounts for about 60 percent of its sales, while the remainder is private sales that take place in its West Hollywood showroom.
“I’m not chasing sales. For me that’s a recipe for disaster. We just set [the site] up right and it’s going to take its own course.”
Apart from the Web site, The Elder Statesman has plans for a retail store, made possible with help from an investment by Chrome Hearts. “They are totally strategic and awesome. They invest in all my platforms,” said Chait. “The idea of all this is to one day make myself obsolete. I mean, if you create a good brand, it should be able to carry on without you.”