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Image courtesy Elyse Walker
Interview

Elyse Walker

09.10.15

Elyse Walker opened her namesake Pacific Palisades boutique in 1999. The brick and mortar and Forward by Elyse Walker, stock the most sought after designer and emerging designer clothing, shoes, and accessories. Already a powerhouse in the industry, Walker added designer to her credentials when she introduced a shoe collection, ElyseWalker Los Angeles. In 2013, she partnered with Sable Banoun to launch THEPERFEXT, their collection of luxury fashion staples (think the perfect jacket, pencil skirt, etc.) every woman should have in constant rotation. The collection, carried at Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Montaigne Market, relies on the decades worth of industry and retail experience gained getting to know exactly what women are looking for in their most desired pieces. Yesterday, we attended the Spring 2016 preview of THEPERFEXTs latest collection at suffice it to say, the two women have created the perfect lace, suede, and cashmere additions your wardrobe will require come Spring.

Interview

You’ve been working in sales since you were a teenager, so you must know how to build a great relationship with your customers. In your opinion, what is the formula for building this trust?

I have always lived by one formula throughout my career: tell your customers the honest truth. If something is not flattering – I tell them. My clients always appreciate when I am honest with them and that to me is the most valuable thing I could ever give them.

What was your first shop like in 1987? Who were you selling?

In 1987 my first shop was on Madison Avenue and 82nd St. During this time in NYC everything was super posh and fancy. Even mothers pushing their babies in strollers were wearing high heels. Women would shop, but they would never carry their purchases out of the store. After I closed, I would personally deliver my customers’ purchases to their apartments. This was before personal assistants and delivery services.

How has your eye for fashion evolved over the years?

I have become more decisive and feel more confident taking risks. Now in my career when I see a trend coming I just go for it, knowing that if I believe in a trend my client usually will as well. I’m also a firm believer that more is more in terms of fashion. The more options of a certain trend I can show my client the more chance they will leave the store buying a piece because they recognize that it’s a piece that is part of a trend/a strong moment in fashion.

Even though I wear multiple hats and am known for being the fashion curator at my store and for Forward by Elyse Walker, what has really evolved is that I have found this special way of curating trends. I buy many different versions and variations of a particular trend and at different price points so it’s attainable and appeals to a broader customer base.

When you opened your namesake store in Pacific Palisades, who were you catering to?

The local mom who is dropping her kids off at school and didn’t want to battle the traffic to head east (into Beverly Hills) to shop. I knew that I could bring these women great fashion without having to travel too far.

Buyer, fashion director, designer, stylist. What do you enjoy most of all the hats you wear?

I’m always the happiest styling my clients in the dressing room of my store on a Sunday afternoon. It seems the only free time I have is on the weekends. I am usually barefoot and hair up in a ponytail- not very glamorous because all of my energy goes to my clients first. In the end, the clients are my priority. The client dictates my buy. Anyone who is a buyer should be in the dressing room at least once a week! Working with clients, you hear it all and you need to listen.

Have you noticed an influx of east coasters relocating out west for good?

Yes – now more than ever – I don’t know if they are moving permanently, but they are definitely coming for the summer. Even some of my favorite Parisian and Italian designers all come to LA and say they want to stay. It’s the best climate, with a mix of great fashion, food and art surrounded by the mountains and sea – who could ask for anything more (maybe less traffic?)?! The world is so fast paced, with social media and so much being thrown at you, I think people are looking for more balance in their busy, over-stimulated days. LA provides a bit of that.

Will this trend influence your buy at all?

Not really, we’ve always had an east coast mentality on the west coast. The east coast is where my roots are and my customer travels everywhere so I have to offer them a bit of everything. From St. Barths for a big celebration, to Croatia on a yacht, to Aspen for a ski weekend, Miami for Art Basel, to Vancouver to shoot a movie, Las Vegas, you name it! I need to understand my customer’s lifestyle and cater to all of their needs, but despite all of this and where my customer might travel, at the end of the day all women just want to clothes that flatter, make them feel a bit sexy and give them a sense of confidence.

What was the driving force behind launching THEPERFEXT?

Sable Banoun (co-designer/co-founder of THEPERFEXT) and I have been working side by side for 15 years. We found ourselves constantly saying we wished we had the perfect leather fringe jacket, or the perfect skirt. So we put our ideas into action and designed THEPERFEXT collection. From the beginning our goal was to create a collection of pieces that represents what every woman needs in her closet. We hit it off with our April fringe jacket and we couldn’t have hit the market at a better time. Our next focus was on cashmere, and creating THEPERFEXT cashmere poncho and now for Spring 2016 we are tackling lace. Our goal for THEPERFEXT is to always provide our clients with a line they can come to for the must haves and I think we are doing that.

Was it always a dream to have your own line?

To be honest, I didn’t always dream to have my own line. I think it was a natural progression. When I dream, I dream of relaxation. Work just comes naturally to me and I am willing to take on a lot and make it happen. My motto, and you can ask anyone who works with me, is work hard, play hard!

One can only imagine the sort of closet you have amassed after so many years in the industry – do you have a handful of coveted pieces?

I collect and save crocodile and exotic skin handbags. I try to invest in one new piece a season and I save all of them. I feel I can add one of my bags to any outfit and I feel ready and put together. Typically you will find me in a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of boots (yes, I do wear boots all year round).

What are your must haves for Fall 2015?

What do you expect to see during the shows for Spring 2016?

For Spring 2016 we will see more beach chic, platforms, turquoise beads, wedges, tribal prints, gladiators, and everything will be cognac suede with a 70s influence.

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