Cashmere might not be the first material you think of when considering either NBA attire—or athletic apparel in general. It’s easily associated with LA-based luxury knitwear brand The Elder Statesman, however. Since their inception in 2007, The Elder Statesman’s won fans for their high-quality, hand-dyed garments and accessories. While they may appear to be an unlikely partner for the world’s most famous basketball organization, when one glances upon their meticulous approach to incorporating team colors and iconic logos in the brand new NBA capsule collection it all makes sense. This multi-year affiliation—the NBA’s first luxury product collaboration—will see The Elder Statesman releasing sweaters, T-shirts, scarves and beanies featuring all 30 team logos, as well as those of the league itself. Founder Greg Chait has delivered products that feel new and refreshing while adhering to the identity of both his brand and that of the NBA.
The origin of the project was rather serendipitous, but Chait’s interests were set very early in life. “Growing up, like every kid, you pay attention to things through a personal lens. For me, it was style. At the same time, basketball felt like it was at this great height during my most impressionable years. Michael Jordan had a massive impact, even stylistically,” he explains to CH. Then 20 years later, Chait was in Malibu with a friend whose family owned Roots and he recalled that this Canadian, family-owned brand had sponsored the Calgary Olympics. “I was like, ‘This family sponsored the Olympics, so why can’t I do something on that scale?'” He began pursuing leads regarding luxury fashion and lifestyle partners for the NBA. All he found was Tiffany & Co, makers of the championship rings. “It was a’ ‘Eureka!’ moment,” he says, and he immediately began to think “creatively, how would this look?”
That said, Chait was entering the world of iconography. “The Bulls have had the same logo forever. We don’t even realize how good a job they’ve done putting that into our brains over the year, and how careful they’ve been with it.” Chait did what he does best: using beautiful yarn and The Elder Statesman’s specific techniques to create impeccable products. All items were hand-dyed in Chait’s dye house, in the parking lot of their facility. The next iteration will include even more personalized techniques.
Chait also found the NBA to be a supportive partner. “They’ve given our brand a lot of leeway as far as colors go. They’re not exactly the same as the uniforms, but they clearly represent the teams. It shows how cool the NBA is with understanding smaller companies—especially when we are talking about hand-dying and painting. They’re going after quality.” Chait also notes that the league could have easily aligned with a larger brand, with a great distribution system and pushed for volume. Rather, they were onboard with the limited manner through which the collection with launch.
“I’ve had plenty of people approach us for collaborations,” Chait explains to CH. “I’ve done some before this, but always with friends. This felt very sincere and authentic. It’s a true partnership. And I feel that, just because we are a small company doesn’t mean we aren’t a great company.” It shows in the product. “It’s got our soul in it,” he concludes. It’s really the most elegant manifestation of NBA apparel out there—and for anyone familiar with The Elder Statesman, it’s just as soft to the touch as their other covetable items.
The Elder Statesman NBA capsule collection will be at Barneys New York, and online, beginning 4 November, with prices starting at $420.
Images courtesy of The Elder Statesman