Soothing Grooviness. The Elder Statesman AW21

If The Elder Statesman was a music album, to me, it would be Lana Del Rey’s latest Chemtrails Over The Country Club. It’s laid-back, it’s care-free, it’s soothing. Greg Chait‘s California-based company makes the trippiest luxurious knitwear out there, and with every season, he manages to expand his world in a natural, considered way. The pre-fall 2021 collection was photographed on a troupe of homesteaders and pot farmers in Northern California, and the autumn-winter 2021 line-up at Biosphere 2 – an environmental simulation in Arizona. In both contexts, Chait’s sun-drenched, signature style is key: clothing engineered for durability, warmth, and optimum vibes. For the latter collection, Mordechai Rubinstein, the photographer and hippie dandy, offered his eye for a swirling tie-dye collaboration. There is a new crochet program in which studio scraps are knotted into trousers and hoodies, each one unique and groovy. The brand’s new fabric, a cotton-cashmere herringbone, was cut into button-downs and casual pants, which were hand-dyed in a lot behind the studio. The inside of the herringbone is electric with color and the exterior faded, a result of the fabric blend. Chait describes it as sort of a happy accident; cashmere takes dye well, cotton doesn’t. Going through the entire collection you get the sense that Chait and company are having a great time, trying to stay smart, small, and sustainable. And it pays off!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Team Work. The Elder Statesman Resort 2021

It’s interesting how two brands, of different scales and formats, emphasized the topic of team work in times of confinement. At Gucci, the resort 2021 collection reveal was an entire, 12-hour long social media event, where Alessandro Michele’s design team, no longer anonymous, modelled the clothes they have designed for not only the look-book, but the advertising campaign. At the same time, we’ve got The Elder Statesman from Los Angeles, where Greg Chait, the founder of the tie-dyed cashmere heaven, presented the collection on his team. But here, it wasn’t just about the studio designers. The whole The Elder Statesman family was here, wearing their garments in context of their work at the brand (from crotcheting to dyeing) and personal passions (farming!). The family aspect was even more clear once you take a glance at the clothes. The pen-and-ink artwork prints come from Greg’s grandmother, Thelma Chait, a prolific artist not acknowledged in her day. Chait and his cousin unearthed a storeroom full of Thelma’s drawings, books, and writings last year, with the designer planning on using them as a foundation for a collection since. The messages of unity, humanity, and love in her illustrations would feel right for any time – she produced much of her art in the groovy and turbulent ’60s and ’70s – but they weave into this collection for 2021 like a soothing balm. Her stick figure of a human, arms circled about its head like a halo, appears on a sweater, as a button, and as a brooch, while her rainbow pen strokes are interpreted as a tie-dye. A map shows fields, cities, deserts, and forests in a sacred geometric pattern on the back of a cardigan worn with ombré cashmere sweats. Making these pieces feel all the more beautiful is the way they were put together and photographed. Knitting, Chait told Vogue, was permissible during California’s lockdowns as a form of manufacturing at home. He and his team drove around Southern California delivering yarns, looms, and ideas for weeks. Already close, the team found a new camaraderie, he explained, and so it was obvious that Thelma’s collection should be represented on the people who made it. Benjamin, a senior knitter, opens the look book in a cashmere sweater with orange trimming, his loom in hand. Chait described him as “a legend,” and went on discussing the importance – both corporately and personally – of each of his colleagues. China, the brand’s VP of sales, models a matching knit set inspired by Thelma’s line. Ariel, the head of dyeing, poses in an ombré of her own design alongside buckets of dye and her dog. Jo, who did the collection’s hand-crocheted flowers, is shown in a gingham shirt-jacket mid-stitch. Chris, a sales associate from the West Hollywood store, wears a jacket made of the new “Cloud” fabric, a paper-thin 100% organic cotton. For the first time, Chait’s own daughter, Dorothy Sue, appears in the collection in a rainbow set made from a Japanese fabric that is 93% cotton and 7% cashmere. No offense Gucci, but my heart is utterly stolen by The Elder Statesman.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Clothes To Love and Live In. The Elder Statesman SS20

Post-fashion-month, now there’s time to look closer at the labels that aren’t looking for fashion show spotlight. The Elder Statesman is one of my favourite labels that are under the radar and its spring-summer 2020 is all about good vibes (yes, really, I used this expression – but it matches the collection perfectly!). Greg Chait has turned The Elder Statesman into the coolest of cool and the luxe-est of luxe: the proof is in the many copycats of his tie-dye knitwear and slouchy casual spirit. For summer, Chait offers body-cropped hoodies, shirtdresses in woven, dyed jeans, and the mentioned tie-dye knits. Chait takes great pride in the cashmere, cotton, and wool blends he uses, many of which he develops himself with his team. These products are beautiful, but they are also made to wear and to be lived and loved in.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Cool As Usual. The Elder Statesman Resort 2020

Greg Chait‘s The Elder Statesman look is signature: a tie-dye top, a slip-dress, a knit (and not just any knit, but a cashmere, hand-woven sweater of the fleeciest texture). Sounds like today’s trendiest street style? Well, Chait was much, much ahead of the fashion crowd when he revived this Calfiornian, dreamy look. The Elder Statesman’s recent collections have touched on topics like self-realization and talismans, which got the designer thinking about life and the fine line between “darkness and light“. “I realized, it’s really like a game,” he said during the New York presentation of his resort 2020 collection. So he dove into how games simulate life, for better or for worse, from Saga and Nintendo circa the ’90s to ancient Indian board games like Snakes and Ladders and Pachisi. This resulted in the silk checkerboard prints, the crewnecks with jacquard stars and gaming symbols, and the very bold color palette. He didn’t go to literal for the theme, and in overall this is a laid-back, cool The Elder Statesman wardrobe we all need.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Journey Goes On. The Elder Statesman AW19

Greg Chait continues to evolve creatively with The Elder Statesman, expanding the brand with new additions. While the softest cashmere sweater is a forever signature of this L.A. brand, Chait lets in even more of eclectic, charming craftsmanship. Adam Shrewsbury’s talismanic doodles illustrate the jackets and knits, while North Carolinian denim is washed in tie-dye (just like all the robes that are made from, yes, silk and cashmere). The collection is distinctly laid-back: the styling feels intuitive , while the model’s ecstatically comforted look says it all. I’m always in awe of The Elder Statesman and it’s impressive attention to quality. And it’s even more exciting to see Chait taking his brand even further, for a journey that isn’t over any time soon.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.