Ones To Watch: Exotics Designer Elisabeth Weinstock On Creating a Modern Heritage Brand

Leah Bourne
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Elisabeth Weinstock Rome Tote

Everything is better covered in exotic skins. At least that is the thinking of Elisabeth Weinstock, behind an eponymous brand of luxury women’s, men’s, and home goods based in Los Angeles. In an era where logos are passé, and it’s all about understated personalized luxury, Weinstock is clearly onto something. Not only are her bags carried the world over by the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker and Kerry Washington, she creates items like leather embossed condom boxes and painted anaconda flasks. After all, why just limit luxury to the bag you are carrying or the shoes you are wearing, it should be a lifestyle choice.

We chatted with Weinstock about her entrepreneurial leanings, her growing business, and why she doesn’t want to make just another Céline-like bag.

The Vivant: This isn’t your first entrepreneurial venture. Tell us about how you got to this point in your career.
Elisabeth Weinstock: I started as a clothing manufacturer with a line called Coton Blanc—it was lingerie and sleepwear. I was really young, in my 20s, and we were shipping to every major department store, like Nordstrom. I did that for ten years, until it grew too big, and I was ready for something else. At that time I was moving [into a new home in Los Angeles] and it became all about my house. And because of the way I decorated my home, I got clients, and started working on interiors. I did that for ten years.
[In 2008] I created a custom four-foot tall jewelry box. It was pretty incredible, and I had it on my website. Maxfield bought it, and I thought to myself: “They are never going to sell this thing.” And they sold it right away, and said they needed another one. They were selling like hot cakes, and I started making smaller ones, and then it started to morph—I was making cufflinks cases, travel dopp kits, cigar cases, all kinds of things. That’s how it all started, and I found myself back in fashion.

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Elisabeth Weinstock

And how did your store come about which you just opened this year?

I’ve always wanted a store since I was little girl. It’s funny how this happened. My ex-husband is my landlord (we get along really well) and he called to tell me he had this space and I just had to do this. The house that the store is in was built in the 1930s and I built it around home, and women, and men. There is a dining room where we have dinner parties, a full bar, a man cave. Customers tell me all of the time they would live here. Shopping here is all about the experience.
What do you think it takes to succeed as a luxury brand today?
I don’t want to compete with the next big Céline bag—I take my hat off to those labels, though. I’m really about doing classic things with a twist. And a lot of it is about presentation. I make a tampon box out of snakeskin—no one wants to sit down on a toilet next to a tampon box. Even gift wrapping is a big deal to us, and we spent a considerable amount of time just looking for the right tissue paper.

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Elisabeth Weinstock Flask

You have so many celebrity fans from Rihanna to Sarah Jessica Parker. What kind of impact has that had on your business?
Sarah Jessica Parker is really the number one fan of the electric blue Tokyo cross-body bag. We’ve sold over 100 of it, which for this kind of bag is a lot, in large part because of her. When we have a celebrity carrying one of our bags we send images to our stores. They really like to see that.
Where do you hope to see the company in five years?
I would love to be a household name—and I’m really just starting to scratch that reality. I look at heritage brands that make everything—like Hermès which has been making saddles for over a hundred years—and that’s something I aspire to. I would love to be a modern heritage brand.
Where did you get this entrepreneurial drive?
Ever since I was little—maybe eight or ten—I was selling bobby socks with rhinestones on them. I would ride my bike to sell them. I was always making things, always creative. It has just grown from there!
Elisabeth Weinstock, 8159 West Third Street, Los Angeles; elisabethweinstock.com
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