For spring, The Elder Statesman creative director Bailey Hunter looked to 101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindōgu, a 1995 book by the Japanese inventor Kenji Kawakami. Though humorous, Kawakami’s creations, like the shoe-brella or a portable cube of “instant personal space” (both featured in the brand’s lookbook), were rooted in an anti-consumerist feeling. It may seem an antithetical inspiration for a luxury knitwear line, but only until you think about The Elder Statesman’s considered approach to mindful production. “Everything we create theoretically should be able to be around forever,” founder Greg Chait said at a showroom appointment in SoHo.
“This whole concept is just kind of about imagination,” Hunter explained while walking through the collection. “Being able to be free to make things that actually serve a purpose—no matter how ridiculous.” That’s not to say that the spring collection consists of impractical attire, but there is a sense of playfulness and anarchy in the clothes that feel very much in sync with the chindōgu spirit. This was most evident in a brown cashmere sweater embellished with a moth motif made from hand-crocheted, deadstock yarn. “I’m really obsessed with this idea of moths because they are cashmere’s worst enemy, so I just put it on the entire sweater,” she said. Crochet figures heavily in the collection, like on a spaghetti strap striped jumpsuit in shades of berry and yellow worn over a navy crochet tube top; on a cool maxi length skirt with a contrasting elastic waistband that gave the appearance of being tie-dyed; and on a slouchy cardigan and matching knee-length skirt in brown with red details and appliquéd flowers.
A pullover intarsia sweater features a bright print of comic book panels, a collaboration with the French comic artist Baptiste Virot, but its playfulness belies the technical wizardry it took to realize. “Usually they can’t do that many colors in an intarsia,” Hunter explained. “It’s too many [yarns] and it becomes really thick, but they mastered this one. I’m really proud of that.” A tan sweater is appliquéd with little stuffed sea creatures. Each piece is softer than the next.
Elsewhere there are basic silhouettes done in decidedly un-basic ways: a colorful sleeveless tank dress is made from deadstock yarn that was given to knitters with the freedom to order the colors as they wanted; a cashmere cardigan worn with matching trousers features contrast stitching details on the sides. Even velvet makes an appearance on an oversized button-down shirt, a bomber jacket, and extra large cargo pants, all in a shade of grass green or turqouise. It seems like it would be impossible to have a bad day while wearing The Elder Statesmen’s colorful knitwear. A good reason to keep these clothes around forever.