Following its surprise debut earlier this year, the American and Italian brands’ collaboration is finally available.
Greg Chait still remembers how nervous he was the first time he stepped foot into Maxfield. Chait, who helms the fashion-lifestyle brand The Elder Statesman, is now known as California’s King of Cashmere but such wasn’t always the case. Toronto-born, his professional career began like most transplants to Los Angeles do—entertainment—but a chance gift of a cashmere blanket changed everything: he became obsessed.
“I wanted to find the perfect one, and I couldn’t, so I started making my own,” Chait remembers, learning more than anyone should know about natural fibers. Somehow Maxfield founder Tommy Perse got wind, and wanted to see the cashmere pieces first hand. “He came in, put his hand into a satchel I made, and told me he’d like to sell it,” remembers Chait from that fateful first meeting. (Infamously, Maxfield appointments happen in the luxury boutique’s dressing rooms.) The designer was ecstatic inside but wanted to play it cool. “I was trying to figure out the production calculations in my head. ‘How many should I make?’ I asked, but he didn’t want me to make any new ones. He wanted the ones I showed him—my personal ones.” Despite not even having tags, they both sold the next day. The rest is history.
Nearly 20 years later, Chait returns to Maxfield with even more pieces and a new friend at his side: Alessandro Sartori, another fiber-fanatic and the longtime artistic director of Zegna. The two were introduced through a mutual friend, and hit it off quickly. But the concept of collaboration didn’t come immediately. “It was three years,” explains Sartori. Part of that was Covid-19, but part of it was also them getting to know each other. “We need to share values, we need to share craft, and we need to share the right philosophy behind what we do.”
Everything aligned, and so the two began to dream. Through Instagram DMs, emails galore, and screen time on Zoom, they worked between Trivero, Italy where Zegna’s Wool Mill is headquartered, and Chait’s home in Malibu, California with the occasional trans-Atlantic trip for textile development, fit, and quality control. The result was a collaborative collection of tie-dye saturated robes, slouchy but luxe pants, and statement cardigans all created in Zegna’s Oasi cashmere. The exclusive yarn is fully traceable from Mongolia to Italy, and represents a new model of fashion production with a consciousness for the environment and business responsibility.
“We wanted something that was very airy and light, but warm. It was a lot to think through.” says Sartori of the material’s inception. “For instance, this is a beautiful Kashmir cord suit,” he says pointing to a lavender corduroy blazer. “But to make the blend—which is cashmere and cotton—and to have that kind of weave and colors it took six months.”
First shown during Paris Fashion Week last February, Zegna x The Elder Statesmen has finally hit stores. This past week Sartori and Chait kicked the festivities off with a ephemeral installation at Maxfield’s flagship boutique on Melrose Avenue. Staged within architect Jean Prouve’s Structure Nomade from 1957, saturated looks from the collection were on view atop a chartreuse carpet reminiscent of the California skyline at dusk. Also on deck was a global campaign by the actor Daniel Brühl, who is known for films Good Bye, Lenin! and Rush as well as his commitment to protecting the environment.
Afterward, Angelinos made their way to the Hollywood Hills, where the brands hosted a fête at a private residence designed by another famed architect Richard Neutra, outfitted in TES bright pink. During a Milan-style dinnatore, Hollywood guests such as Evan Peters, James Mardsen, and Kyle Maclachlan joined athletes Shareef O’Neal and Jalen Green, and the two designers to celebrate their collection while Faux Real, Chloé Caillet, Agathe Mougin, and Bianca Lexis staged live performances. The night was just the first of many between Zegna x The Elder Statesmen, who plan to continue the party in Chengdu, China and Singapore.
“We’re designing with the human in mind,” sums up Sartori. “I know it sounds strange to say this, but that’s something Greg and his team have let me think about. And we’re having a lot of fun.”
From Left: Rumer Willis, Kyle MacLachlan & Evan Peters