The Elder Statesman boutique in West Hollywood in Los Angeles is just off Melrose Avenue. A garden bed of cacti flanks the low-slung bungalow, and a flamingo-pink neon sign let’s you know you’re in the right place. The store, also home to founder Greg Chait’s design workshop and office, displays a selection of colourful cashmere garments and accessories for men and women. California’s casual, vivacious spirit is part of the label’s DNA, and it has won major fashion awards and a legion of celebrity fans since its inception in 2007.
What started as a hobby for Chait (who was part of the team that brought Australia’s Ksubi to the United States) with a series of custom-cashmere blankets has since expanded to include cashmere men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, kids wear and accessories. Celebrities and tastemakers including actor Emma Stone, models Jess Hart and Hailey Baldwin, fashion editor Giovanna Engelbert, Rhianna, Harry Styles, and Gwyneth Paltrow are all fans.
After testing the Australian waters with a trunk show in Sydney four years ago, the label has decided to establish a more permanent presence. The coveted cashmere is now available at Melbourne’s Le Louvre, and at Australian designer Lucy Folk’s The Lucy Folk Salon in Melbourne and Playa in Sydney. Both retailers recently added the spring-summer 2019 candy-coloured jumpers to their repertoire, just in time for winter.
The Elder Statesman take on cashmere is contemporary, flamboyant and fun – words you might not usually associate with the fibre. Chait is out to disrupt the cashmere market, and the label prides itself on an inventive use of yarn and playful, painterly designs that make bold statements. Take one of its bestsellers, which is a play on Marlboro’s red-and-white packaging, with the slogan “Meditate” rendered boldly on the front.
"These jumpers are perfectly aligned with the new Lucy Folk collection, Guru," says Folk. "It's all about being your own inner guru, healer and controlling your destiny. The juxtaposition of the word ‘Meditate’ in the same set up as a packet of Marlboro Red cigarettes was what drew me in. The cashmere is beyond soft."
These garments are high-end, premium pieces, with prices – and quality – that match Europe’s luxury fashion houses. Chait and his team’s craftsmanship is of the highest standard. The cashmere, sourced from various regions in Mongolia and the Himalayas, as well as yarn mills in Italy and Scotland, comes at a price – $500 a kilo. The garments are also made in highly limited runs. This scarcity, craftsmanship and the demand for these pieces add up to sweaters that cost $2,335 a pop. They’ve become collector’s items of sorts, and Chait intends for them to be worn and cherished for many years.
For a small label The Elder Statesman has an impressive operation. It has its own factory and so can turn around samples at short notice, and it retains full creative control over every single knit.
"Knitwear and leisure looks are now a style staple for Australian women,” says Anastasia Tushuizen, who is in charge of buying, retail and online operations at Le Louvre. “The Elder Statesman ticked all the boxes for us when we came across them last year. The label's spirit of effortless elegance suits our shoppers perfectly. Their extensive fabrication development and creative dyeing techniques also give this knitwear brand its marks of distinction.”