Chrome Hearts, a Los Angeles-based handcrafter of high-end jewelry, leather goods, furniture and apparel, has forged a formal partnership with luxe local lifestyle label Elder Statesman, the companies announced.
"Chrome Hearts made a minority stake investment that was financially driven but also very strategic and personal," said Chrome Hearts' Laurie Stark, who co-founded the brand with husband Richard in 1988.
Neither party would give more specifics about the deal. But the personal relationship between the Starks (including daughter Jesse Jo Stark, who works in the family business) and Elder Statesman's Greg Chait stretches back to 2004 when Chait was at Tsubi (later Ksubi) Denim. The professional relationship followed after Chait, known for his ultra-luxe cashmere knits, took home the 2012 Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund award. One of the benefits of the win was a yearlong mentorship — for which Chait immediately buttonholed the Starks.
"They have 25 years of experience and we have a very similar vertical business model," Chait said. "And my company is only 6 years old. I could learn all the pitfalls that come with expanding a factory and adding [stand-alone] retail by myself or I could find people I trust. What beats that kind of experience?"
Both parties describe the move from mentorship to partnership as a natural one flowing from the fact that they helped Chait navigate the expansion of his cashmere-based knitwear business. "I knew immediately [after winning the award] that I wanted to expand my factory and do [stand-alone] retail," Chait said, "but I needed to raise capital … so I put together a business plan."
"We just said: 'Let us know before you let other people know [that you're looking for investors],' " Richard Stark said, "We had mentored him and you can't just let [opportunities] like that slip through the cracks." He added that the partnership with Elder Statesman marked the first time the 26-year-old company has invested in another brand.
Chait said the investment will help him add more Culver City factory space (he outgrew his previous space there in just four months) and roll out Elder Statesman's first stand-alone retail space, which he says could be a reality as soon as August or September.
As for the prospect of collaborative Chrome Hearts and Elder Statesman products? Both parties are playing it close to their cashmere-lined leather vests. "Something is going to happen," Chait said.
"You'll just have to wait and see," added Richard Stark.