“The Elder Statesman is named in honor of my brother who passed away,” says Greg Chait, of naming his label of high-end knitwear. “I wanted to create a legacy, something that his son could potentially come into one day, but most importantly, I wanted to commemorate my brother with both the name and my business ethics”.
Chait, a gentleman of both understated humility and appreciation, launched his line in 2007 after receiving a luxurious cashmere blanket as a gift. Infatuated with both the blanket’s texture and practicality, the 34-year old was subconsciously looking for his next business venture after departing denim label Ksubi that same year. Unbeknownst to him, it would be the nucleus for The Elder Statesman, as well as the foundation for principles on which it currently stands: exceptional quality, impeccable craftsmanship, and product longevity.
He began by launching a collection of custom blankets crafted from heavy-gauged yarn in a factory in Western Canada (Chait was born in Toronto), which eventually transitioned into a series of knitted hats. The line quickly garnered artisanal respect and recognition, and since then, Chait has expanded a complete and comprehensive ready-to-wear collection in addition to accessories, home interiors, and a series of eyewear items.
The company is now five years old, but those humanist pillars still. “The name keeps me honest. It’s not about me. It’s about an idea. It forces me to think things about things that customers aren’t thinking about,” Chait says. “My brother’s nickname was ‘The Mayor’. He was just that kind of person and he never started a fight but he was always the one who found himself in the middle of protecting someone. Above all, he was embedded with honesty and I try to translate that into my creations.”
While his designs may spring from a personal narrative, his collection has become a definitive ‘lifestyle’ label. “The Elder Statesman is based on my experiences and the experiences of the people around me – based on my travels and the people I meet, but the underlying feeling is Americana with a West Coast perspective” says Chait with confidence, and to his credit, the critics agree.
This year, The Elder Statesman was awarded the top prize at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, a mentorship program that is now in its 9th season. In the past, top honors have gone to industry giants like Joseph Altuzarra and Alexander Wang. Still, regardless of the direction of his business, or the accolades he receives, or the income he generates, Chait insists his principles will always remain the same. “Each item needs to be able to stand on its own in the best stores around the world, next to the best items. ‘If it stood on its own without a label, would people still care?’ That’s the philosophy behind what I do,” he says. “And hopefully, people will be able to see that.”