To be a great collector, one needs impeccable taste, an excellent eye, and an open mind. It takes much more than a weekend excursion to a few flea markets, but rather, a lifetime of courage, of journeys and experiences. For entrepreneur Greg Chait, his role as merely a collector has been transformed by his desire to create things, to actually add beautiful things not only to his own collections, but to allow others to benefit from his own personal journeys, his own ability to daydream raw materials into finished pieces. This ever growing collection, known to a special clientele as The Elder Statesman, began with a gift. [EXPAND ]
“Ever since I was a little boy, I always gravitated towards well made things. Always. It was innately in me. About 10 years ago I was given a really beautiful cashmere blanket. 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 Western 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?” 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. 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. When I finally returned home, the owner of a very exclusive boutique had heard about my blankets from friends, as we all travel in the same circles. I brought them in, just out of curiosity, and they immediately said “ how many can you have by Christmas?” A few months later I decided to make a company.”
Though The Elder Statesman began with blankets, Chait started to realize that all of the beautiful raw materials he had been collecting could be applied and mixed together to create any kind of object he wanted.
“I was travelling and going to the markets all around the world and just started noticing beautiful things everywhere I went. I buy lots of materials and now I’m just trying to see how I can apply them to what I do.”
“My sources are not through the normal channels, you must broaden your mind a little bit but its kind of commonsensical. Every culture does either knitting, weaving or spinning. That is one of the reasons I started my company. It actually ties the world together.”
Not only did he realize that it is it just about the yarn, but also, that exactly how the yarn is approached is unique to every local culture, a fact The Elder Statesman embodies whole heartedly. “ I can draw on every culture, from Alaska all the way to the South Pacific. I know there is some sort of weaving technique being used there or some sort of fiber used for weaving. Then I can take the fiber and have it spun and woven by a different cultural technique and then all of the sudden, along the way you are meeting different artisans as they work with materials. I cross-pollinate cultures in that way. I guess its part of the journey, you know? For instance, I have inspired some of the people I’ve worked with to develop new techniques. One of my favorite artisans for cashmere is now hand spinning mink for me; that’s the next fiber I am going to be working with, so we will see how that one goes. If I don’t have the yarn made for me I will create my own fabric. I’m just really trying to evince texture out of the fabric. All of the materials I use are quite ancient. 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. They are very very pure materials that have been used for thousands of years. “
The collection now has everything from hats and sweaters to beautiful home furnishings and eyeglasses. So what inspires particular pieces? “I am so into the yarn and creating the fabrics; they actually tell me what they are going to be. I let the material decide and I don’t try and force them into anything unnatural for how they should flow and feel, in my opinion, that is. Once I’ve developed a yarn, I have a vision for the pieces. Its that simple.”[/EXPAND]