Elyse Walker: Retail Queen

Elyse Walker fashioned a name for herself as a Southern California brand with her eponymous L.A. flagship store and an e-commerce site, Forward by Elyse Walker. Now she’s focused on her new Lido Marina Village boutique, where she lures O.C. style mavens with designer duds, resort wear, a mini-salon, and a jewelry store nestled in a former bank vault.

How does it feel opening a shop in Orange County?
When I saw the location, it was love at first sight—a different experience on the water, and with a developer handpicking lines such as Eberjey and Warby Parker instead of huge national brands. It felt like the kind of community we were used to. People have invited us to their homes, to their boats, to come do Pilates!

This store offers a strong collection of gowns and jewelry, and Orange County is known for its galas and fundraisers. Is this intentional?
To be honest, denim and T-shirts are the strongest market in both my stores. It’s not a designer store where people shop head to toe in one brand. Our designer brands, we call them “superbrands”—Gucci, Balenciaga, Givenchy—bring people in, but our O.C. shoppers will pair a Saint Laurent jacket with a L’Agence T-shirt and Gianvito Rossi boot.

Photographs by Melissa Valladares

About that amazing jewelry vault…
It’s my dream come true. Architecture, arts, and jewelry are my favorite things. The building used to be a bank, and when we discovered that the vault was still intact, I immediately thought it would make a fabulous space to house fine jewelry. So we went with that concept, and even installed a real, working vault door.

I love the resort side of the store and dreamed of island hopping the moment I stepped into it. What inspired it?
People are influenced by travel, and I spent the past three summers in Ibiza. The L.A. store isn’t big enough to have a year-round beach store, so I wanted to do it here.

Photographs by Melissa Valladares

What are some of your travel must-haves?
I love the Antonello handbags. I love Talitha—cotton caftans, shirts, scarves. It’s a line you’d wear any time of year. Poupette St. Barth (tunics, rompers, dresses)—we can’t keep it in the store. I want every single piece.

Now that you’ve been open for a bit, what are you learning about local shoppers?
It’s a little sexier here in O.C. We have global customers and because of the fabulous hotels here, we’re already meeting them. That’s going to be a new, exciting part of this business.

What did you want to do differently here than at your flagship boutique?
I wanted a space big enough to grow into, and I didn’t want to beg my neighbors to move out, like we did (in Pacific Palisades).

What’s new for spring?
Satin bombers will continue to be big. We’re seeing everything in white, cream, light gray, and pink, believe it or not—even into fall. Everyone needs a slip dress. And Gucci, Gucci, Gucci. Every piece is like a work of art. The customer is really reacting to it.

If you could anoint one spring trend your absolute must, what would it be?
Ruffles! Ruffles off the shoulder, super-feminine ruffle tops, ruffles everywhere. And no one does it better than Carolina Constas, Johanna Ortiz, and Fendi.

How do you explain that elusive SoCal fashion vibe that everyone wants?
California fashion right now is one of the hottest looks in the world. What we’re so good at is high-low dressing—mixing contemporary brands with designer pieces to give the look of SoCal ease.

When you look into your designer crystal ball, what do you see?
Velvet will continue for fall and winter and be even bigger. All the shoes are velvet. And we’re seeing all these dramatic ruffled silhouettes, amazing coats, and playful outerwear.

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