Photo Courtesy Chris Shipman
Interview

JULIA LEACH

04.23.12

Julia Leach, the former Creative Director of Kate Spade, launched her own line, Chance, in 2011. Built around the idea of the perfect striped T-shirt and other iconic designs, Chance plans to expand into hotels and other ventures.

Interview

How did you come to call the collection “Chance”?

I was exploring various options, then one night I was watching the Peter Sellers movie “Being There” in which he plays a character named Chance. He’s a gardener who finds himself, through a series of events, in Washington DC, a totally foreign land to him. One of the politicians says about Chance’s character, “He has a particular brand of optimism.” And when I heard that, I thought, “Well, I’m all about chance and optimism, and that’s what this brand is about.” I never considered another name after that. The name was Chance.

The line launched with simple striped tee, and you’ve already expanded into tunics, espadrilles, beach towels, etc. What are you going to add next?

I launched with a fairly comprehensive assortment – the tees, dresses, hats, espadrilles, jewelry, along with the other categories you mentioned – because I wanted to express that Chance is more than just a t-shirt line.  It’s a bigger idea about traveling and looking and creating and appreciating adventure, simplicity, and strong, clean design.  On my mind in terms of continuing the Chance narrative are two things : A great cashmere sweater – the perfect style in solids and stripes. And a book. I’d love to tell the Chance story and share the world of references on the printed page.  Cashmere and books…I don’t think either will ever go out of style.

Do you plan to evolve the company outside of clothing and accessories?

Absolutely.  Expanding on the Chance idea and point-of-view will be a process of adding layers of product that capture the sensibility: mens, kids, home.  I have a fragrance in mind.  Those categories are all a natural fit for the brand.  But as a creative director what’s as intriguing to me beyond product are the media possibilities.  Films, publications, music, unexpected collaborations, interiors and curated spaces.

You’ve mentioned hopes to have a small hotel called Chance…has this always been a dream?

Yes, for many years I thought a natural progression of my career would be to be the creative director of a hotel concept.  It brings together all of the disciplines I love: style, architecture and interiors, graphic design, music, food, and making people feel at home and welcome.  All the details that have to be taken into consideration to create a magical, memorable environment would be a great challenge.  In the end, it’s all storytelling — editing a series of thoughtful touches, large and small, into an emotional experience for your audience.  Maybe Chance will provide a roundabout route to realizing that dream.

Where would it be?

On the coast, exactly where to be determined.  Broadly speaking, I’m interested in the idea of capturing that “intimate hotel abroad” feeling in California or maybe Florida.  Chic and luxurious in its simplicity and attention to detail.

This past summer you opened a pop up store on Elizabeth Street. Any plans for this summer?

Last fall the Barneys team asked if I’d create a pop-up shop for them, so that’s the focus for this spring/summer.  They’ve been amazing throughout the process and understand the vision for the brand.  An edited assortment from the new California-inspired collection will be available at their Madison Avenue and Beverly Hills stores.  I’m quietly excited for the launch, which will be in mid-May.

Where else can the collection be purchased?

We’re focusing on Barneys as our exclusive partner right now, so the collection will be available there and on chanceco.com for this season.  We have interest from stores we really admire, so expanding to those doors will be the next step.

How does the collection evolve for winter?

Sweaters will be the initial focus, both cashmere and variations on the fisherman’s sweater.  The same philosophy will apply to cold weather clothes : Great quality, clean design, items you always pack for work or pleasure travel.  Or put another way, the uniform you always want to wear wherever you go, staying local or going far away.  Scarves, hats, and pajamas are all part of that equation.

For someone who values simplicity, do you find it challenging to incorporate it in your every day routine?

At times, but not often.  I was blessed with a knack for organization, so I keep my days on a fairly even keel.  I make to-do lists on index cards.  I like basic silver paper clips and pale yellow post-it notes, nothing fussy.  I don’t change mascara brands or lipstick colors (well, lipstick colors every once and awhile).  I like order, but am also drawn to healthy chaos and creativity.  It’s all about balancing the two sides of that coin.

On your site, you sell lots of things other than your collection–pieces by other designers, books you like, and artwork. Why did you decide to do that?

I’m always thinking beyond the product I design or curate, looking for other ways to capture the essence of Chance.  Ultimately, the business is a repository for everything I’m interested in: art, design, style, travel, music, film.  And I also love the process of collaborating, so when friends say, “What can I do to help?” the conversation often leads to a project.  I feel very blessed that way — Chance has a lot of very creative god parents.

Who is the Chance customer?

It’s been rewarding to see a variety of women respond to the brand.  At the core, the idea, the values, and the product of Chance seem to strike a chord with people who appreciate both the classics and fashion, but don’t wholly subscribe to either.  They incorporate both and seek out products and experiences that speak to a certain ethos of quality and design.  Whether she’s 20, 40, or 60, she’s confident about her sense of personal style. She’s independent, curious, and creative in one way or another.  She’s modern and forward-thinking and has an aversion to kitsch, but also has a certain affection for things steeped in history.

You were the Creative Director at kate spade for years. Did you always know you wanted your own line?

I always knew I wanted to tell the story of a brand that has design and style as its backbone.  Chance as a line, literally and figuratively, is an example of my love for creative directing every aspect of a brand idea.  If I had the well, chance, I could get excited about an another apparel/accessories or houseware or hotel or ice cream brand, as long as there was an authentic story to tell. So, yes, I’ve always known I wanted my own…something.  Chance says it all.