Today, BoF is pleased to bring you the exclusive premiere of a film by The Little Squares about rising luxury business, The Elder Statesman
LOS ANGELES, United States — “Ever since I was a little boy, I always gravitated towards well made things. Always. It was innately in me," says Greg Chait, the amicable and charming founder of The Elder Statesman, in For The Record, an editorial newspaper to be distributed during Paris mens fashion week, alongside a new content rich website launching today.
A collection of ultra-luxe essentials — heavy gauge cashmere blankets, intricately shaped buffalo-horn eyewear, four layer cashmere wool hats — The Elder Statesman introduces an understated, laid-back aesthetic to the world of luxury. "About 10 years ago I was given a really beautiful cashmere blanket," explains Chait. "I then started collecting blankets from France, Italy, Scotland, even Ethiopia, and I wound up with a great collection, but I could never find the one that I really wanted for myself. It had to be utilitarian as well as the ultimate in terms of luxury, so I found a collective in Canada doing handspun wool and they were working a little bit with cashmere and I asked them, 'can you create a really heavy gauged yarn for me?'”
The Canadian collective said yes. "I didn’t know a lot about yarn at the time, but somehow I figured out that it was ‘about the yarn,’ it has to be about the yarn. It’s the D.N.A. of everything," he goes on. "So they hand spun a yarn for me, which we then hand knitted into a blanket that weighed ten pounds! I made two of them for myself."
After the owner of Maxfield, the legendary Los Angeles luxury emporium, heard about them through the grapevine, Chait took them in for him to see. Maxfield placed an order right away, the blankets sold like hotcakes, and shortly thereafter The Elder Statesman was born.
The business has since expanded into other categories, always with an obsessive focus on the raw materials. "All of the materials I use are quite ancient," says Chait, explaining the underlying appeal of his products. "They’ve been around long before cotton, obviously: cashmere, wool, gold, buffalo horn; everything, has been used for millennia, so they are rich but old and therefore have their own history. I’m creating a new way, my own way, to interpret them. It’s just what I’m drawn to."
Leveraging a local base of highly-skilled artisans — "cobblers from Argentina, dressmakers from Paris, and tailors from London" — who originally came to Los Angeles to serve Hollywood, Chait's products are also exquisitely crafted, with a rough hewn, handmade touch.
The clothes seem like they have been around forever: a pair of shorts to live in all summer, a fine gauge t-shirt that's light as a feather, a warm cashmere hat which is as much about how it feels to wear it, as it is about how it looks on. They are the ultimate in luxury, but still enable the wearer to blend into the crowd.
What makes this a remarkable business story is The Elder Statesman pricepoint. With cashmere blankets starting around $1,200 and going all the way up to $21,000, wool hats up to $700 and distressed denim shirts costing up to $500, consumers buying these products also require a big bank account, a serious investment mindset.
A quick visit to Hostem — recently praised by the the FT's How to Spend it Magazine as "the most interesting men's store to debut in London in the past ten years" — confirms that the business model is working. At least at this small, manageable scale, The Elder Statesman products are selling briskly and sales associates report that everyone from rock stars to young millionaires from the City are coming in, falling in love with products and paying full price to enjoy them. The early success of Chait's business seems to say that luxury items don't need to be defined by big logos, from famous brands, available everywhere. Neither do they need to be avant-garde or 'directional'.
As The Elder Statesman business quietly grows, Mr. Chait may emerge as one of our most compelling tastemakers. We are pleased to bring you the debut of a film that will enable you to get to know him and his luxury philosophy a bit better.
The Elder Statesman will be showing his A/W 2011 collection at The Bristol Hotel during Paris Fashion Week