Before launching her activewear label Alala, Denise Lee had the advantage of hitting up her former boss Chris Burch for all kinds of advice.
This story first appeared in the January 31, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Having worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the founder of Burch Creative Capital for three years, Lee knew all about the factory visits and flight time that go into building a brand. The former vice president of business development joined the company when C. Wonder was just getting off the ground and she exited in November 2012.
During an interview with Burch Wednesday in his NoMad office, Lee noted that they traveled to China frequently to tour factories for BCC, an operation that includes technology, resorts, health care and apparel enterprises. Burch, who logged 1,000 hours on airplanes last year, said with a laugh, “We’ve flown all over the world together. It’s so fun walking around swamps in flip-flops; driving seven hours in a car.”
Training for the 2012 Montauk Sprint Triathlon, Lee was struck by how basic the activewear market was. “I love shopping and I love fashion, but there was no brand out there that I was really dying to buy,” she said. “That kind of sparked my interest and I did a lot of research.”
Named for the Greek goddess, Alala will launch at Equinox, the New York-based fitness club, that Lee works out at and where she conducted some observational research. She also kept her eyes peeled at Flywheel and other spinning studios. Designed by Christie Orlando, who once worked on Champion, Alala is meant to be more fashion-forward with such design details as curved mesh panels on printed spandex capri pants. This spring, Lee will start hosting trunk shows for her 25-piece collection, which will retail from $60 for a T-back bra top to $175 for a jacket. Alala’s e-commerce site is expected to go live by the end of next month. The line is being sold in select specialty stores. Crescala Showroom is handling the wholesale appointments.
Lee’s financing is mainly from friends and family and does not include any contributions from Burch, although he hasn’t ruled that out as an option.