Julia Leach's new clothing and accessories brand Chance has had a pretty impressive first few years. The former Kate Spade creative director has only produced two collections yet has received tons of press for her designs, which are clean-lined and channel an appealing combination of beach and prep. Not to mention it's already been picked up by Barneys. We spoke to her about her California-inspired spring/summer line, where she shops when in LA (she splits her time between our city and NYC) and what lies next.
You were at Kate Spade for 11 years and before that, at Chiat/Day. What spurred you to launch your own brand?
"I worked with Kate and Andy almost since the beginning. But the company had new ownership and I think we all felt like it was the time to evolve. I mean, 11 years is an amazing chapter and opportunity to be hands-on with building a brand. But there is a natural point at which you look for the next challenge. "
How would you say that your time at Kate Spade influenced Chance?
"It's not that it influenced Chance because Chance is very much my own world and sensibility but what was really special is that I was a part of the core team building a brand. It was more of what I learned over 11 years that I took away from it rather than any sort of creative influence."
Your primary residence is in New York but you're bi-coastal and come out to LA often. How has your time in California influenced your work and your personal style?
"It's had a big influence. I started coming out when I was working for Jay Chiat straight out of college and I was back and forth between Venice and New York at a very young age. I'm an outdoor, sunshine and nature-oriented person but my curiosity is also very much served by my time in New York. My style in New York is very casual. I know what's going on in the fashion world and I participate in it to a degree but I'm much more the beach girl in downtown Manhattan. White jeans and a fisherman's sweater and maybe a blazer but I keep it kind of polished-casual in New York which very much speaks to how I live and dress when I'm in LA."
Your newest collection was inspired by California.
"When it came time to do a second collection I really wanted to express this whole idea of artful classics and a more international point of view—the next collection will be Greece. It always starts from a personal place. California is very much a part of my life. In addition to my boyfriend living here I spend a lot of time in Palm Springs at my best friend's house. The cactus greens and the beautiful sand and chocolate-y desert brown really anchor the collection, and the blues of the sky and the pool. It starts with a place and a color palette and just a vibe. It really speaks to what happens to the weekends in LA and the lifestyle here."
When you come out to LA, where do you like to go?
"Because [my boyfriend] Glenn lives in Los Feliz that's our natural home base. Some of the stores I always make a point of stopping at [include] RTH on La Cienga (I really love that sensibility and what he's doing) and Lost & Found on Yucca (I just got baby gifts for a friend there last minute. I love that you can get beautiful linens there.). I like New High (M)art on Vermont which is really close to Glenn. I can walk there and then have dinner at Figaro Bistrot afterwards. Those are the kind of places I'm drawn to. Being a New Yorker, my first instinct is to walk everywhere so I always take a late afternoon walk into Griffith Park."
How did the Barneys pop-up come about?
"I did a pop-up for two months in New York and two of [Barneys'] senior buyers came in. I got a text that day saying, "We love it. Let's talk." And then it took some emails back and forth but later in the summer we sat down and they totally got the brand. They understood that it wasn't just a T-shirt line, that it was this bigger idea of quality and simplicity and adventure and they just embraced it. When I first met with them I wasn't quite sure what they wanted to do. They immediately said, let's do a whole pop-up. It's a perfect first wholesale partner. I didn't plan it this way but I knew I wanted to grow it in a really careful way. I didn't want to go to trade shows and sell to a bunch of stores. I really wanted to partner with people who understood the whole vision. They loved the idea of international classics and that the brand will sort of travel and take people on a journey and were supportive."
Where will you be stocked next?
"You know Unionmade, in San Francisco? They have a store at the Brentwood Country Mart as well. And Todd, one of the owners, has been watching Chance and he and his friends are opening a women's store in San Francisco. So next up is being the core knitwear line for the opening of Mill in Noe Valley in late July."
· Chance [Official Site]
· What's Preppy, Cotton and Striped? Chance's Barneys Pop Up [Racked]