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Fashion Entrepreneur

Elyse Walker

Written by The World's Best Events

Since her eponymous boutique’s opening, Elyse Walker has been a household name for the fashion set. For over two decades, she’s been serving up stylish options for the most well-heeled women, initially catching the LA elite with her Pacific Palisades boutique, then garnering global interest with her e-commerce business. She spoke to us about her approach to building a business, what inspires her creative style, plus why brick and mortar is here to stay.

Describe your career path. How did it start?

I was born and raised in Scarsdale, New York. In between soccer practices and high school classes, I worked at my mother’s shoe store on the sales floor and climbing ladders in the stock room. Unlike many who work in the industry, I did not have an immediate love and passion for fashion. I studied mathematics and had envisioned myself working on Wall Street someday. While I was attending college at Columbia University, my mom was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and passed away shortly thereafter. I inherited the family’s shoe business, and, in a way, the business chose me.

In 1996, my husband David and our two boys, Ryan and Kevin, moved to Pacific Palisades. I spent two years consulting, volunteering at my kids’ school, and settling into our new life on the West Coast. I often wondered why, in such an affluent community, there were no stores in close proximity that offered great fashion. In 1999, I decided to get back into retail and open a small store (located one block from my kids’ school). Since opening, we have expanded five times and some days it feels like that store is bursting at the seams!

What parts are you involved in? 

I mostly work with the buying team helping to curate our elysewalker and towne by elysewalker point of view. I also work closely with our corporate team on budgets, marketing initiatives and sales projections. I am a numbers girl at heart, and I love the business side.

How are you keeping up with progress in technology and society?

I am a people person and I truly believe in the power of relationships. I still need to touch and feel everything. People want a personal experience and for that reason, I strongly believe that brick and mortar is not over.

When it comes to technology, I really rely on my teams’ expertise and knowledge. I know that there is power in digital media; however, I am and always will be very hands-on. At the end of the day, word of mouth is still the strongest form of advertising.

What do you love about the job?

I love building a team. Whether we are growing our buying team, planning a pop-up shop or a large-scale charity event, it comes down to the people on your team.

Over the past 20 years of building my fashion retail business in LA, I still go back to the principles that I learned growing up playing sports and on the soccer field. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but nothing will happen if you don’t try and if you don’t surround yourself with amazing players. It really does take a team and no one person can do it alone.

What is it about your approach in particular that sets you apart?

I put my head down and blinders on and follow what is in my gut. I do think it is important to know what others are doing, however I do not let those things affect my vision and the path that will help us continue to grow.

How do you find ways to stand out instead of fit in?

Both elysewalker and towne by elysewalker are known for having a clear point of view. We focus on mixing designer, contemporary and casual, high and low, and selecting pieces that can be worn many times and styled many ways. We do our best to have our finger on the pulse and are always looking for new and emerging designers and talent.

How would you describe your creative style?

I am a very visual person. I love art, architecture, design, and music. I don’t just follow the world of fashion. I have eyes on everything, and they all influence my creative style.

What is the number one thing you think events need to do to become more sustainable?

There have been times when I thought maybe we were putting on too many events. I think that the market can get oversaturated and people only have so much time. It’s very important to me that the events that we produce and host are both significant and impactful, and that they really resonate with our clients. Each event needs to include a personal experience, whether it’s previewing pre-collections, meeting a designer, customizing a piece of jewelry—there has to be a meaningful takeaway.

What makes a great event?

MUSIC! It’s so important and oftentimes overlooked. We have hosted small dinners, 500-person in-store parties, fashion shows, and charity events with over 1,000 attendees, and the ones that people still talk about have included dance parties and clients singing at the top of their lungs.