WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Nothing Greg Chait does is by the book.
This story first appeared in the November 21, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The founder and owner of luxe cashmere lifestyle brand The Elder Statesman started his line in 2007 with a cashmere blanket sold at Maxfield, then not only soldiered on through the recession with items retailing in the thousands of dollars but also grew into a ready-to-wear, accessories, eyewear and kids clothing brand. The company won the $300,000 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize in 2012 and received an investment from Chrome Hearts earlier this year.
Now, in addition to private sales and about 65 points of sale worldwide — befitting the brand’s unique nature, its number-one market is Switzerland — The Elder Statesman has its own store to call home.
The store is in what was, literally, a home in the heart of West Hollywood: 607 N. Huntley Drive, off the western stretch of Melrose Avenue, where tenants like Balenciaga, Rag & Bone, Urth Caffe and Bodhi Tree bookstore make for eclectic and fashionable foot traffic.
“I didn’t know what I had in mind for a store until I saw this,” said Chait, standing outside the converted bungalow at dusk. The white stucco structure, with 1,600 square feet inside and a 1,600-square-foot wraparound patio, is framed by the massive blue glass Pacific Design Center, the showroom and creative office complex that dominates most cityscapes in this part of town. For Chait, the store’s geographic location represents his participation in, although at a slightly off-the-beaten-path distance from, the local style scene he has been a part of since founding the brand (before that, he was a music rep at talent agency The Firm and a partner in the Australian denim brand Ksubi, which launched Stateside in the early Aughts. He sold his shares in 2007).
But location was the only thing he preserved from the building. “We tore through three driveways, rebuilt the foundation and replaced everything,” said Chait, who used design firm Commune, longtime contractor Loren Crawford, sweat equity from several of his employees and funding from Chrome Hearts to create the retail environment.
They added a roof and domed skylights, all fully clad in copper; alder-wood floors, doors and window frames; succulent landscaping — a nod to his childhood home of Arizona — and a stone-paver-lined courtyard with built-in wooden seating that invites not only shoppers but hanger-outers.
“Apart from our private showroom or our factory, there’s no other place to see the range of what we offer,” he said, gesturing to the selection of cashmere stuffed animals, jewel-embellished bolo-style necklaces and ultrabright sweaters displayed on vintage chairs, Prohibition-era bottles and movable alder racks with copper rails. Merchandise ranges from a $195 bracelet to a $12,000 cashmere sleeping bag; ready-to-wear ranges between $400 for a cashmere T-shirt to $2,200 for a Baja sweater.
Other details include custom-made Guatemalan denim-wrapped hangers; knotty-pine framed mirrors; five center-pivot wood-framed glass doors, which make the space indoor-outdoor; and giant rock crystals — one retails for $6,000 — set among the olive and orange trees in the garden.
Chait said he doesn’t have sales projections or any preconceived ideas about the store, which officially opens on Saturday with an afternoon fete. “There’s no set layout or plan. It’s designed to invite discovery and to be always changing.”