French leather leggings may sound like an indulgence but Offtrack Co. founders Isabelle Alix and Noémie Blanchard are trying to democratize them.
The machine washable, New York-made items are offered in two lengths and sizes extra small to extra large. The business partners’ aim is to fuse the upscale luxury feel of Paris with the street style of New York. Online shoppers can buy their leggings at the New York-based company’s site where they will be reminded, “Don’t follow the pack. Live offtrack.” Through Sunday night, women can also find the label at the Offtrack x Kreateurs pop-up store at 138 Wooster Street in Manhattan.
Blanchard moved to New York five years ago, and Alix did so three years ago. Mutual friends in Paris suggested they meet, and they wound up spending hours together discussing business models, ways to change their lives and other ambitions. The fact their husbands work in tech was another commonality. A friendship led to a business venture. Inspired by direct-to-consumer brands that do one product really well like Casper and Warby Parker, the Offtrack founders decided to start their company with one style of leggings in two different lengths. They said their objective is to democratize high-end leather wear through “comfort, practicality and price.” Retail prices for the machine washable leather leggings are $550 and suede options are $495.
Alix and Blanchard had fashion industry experience before venturing out on their own. After attending Emlyon Business School, Alix worked for such companies as Isabel Marant and L’Oréal. Blanchard studied at Institut Français de la Mode before working in merchandising and product development in leather goods and accessories for brands like Givenchy, Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton. In New York, she pitched in at Phillip Lim and Narciso Rodriguez.
Pragmatic in their approach to Offtrack, the two women said they prefer to glean information from all sorts of industries, start-ups and independent thinkers. They also favor individualistic influencers who share their outlook and found their first model, who happened to be plus-size, on Instagram. After moving to Manhattan, they took to the casual athletic style they saw other women wearing. So much so that when they returned to Paris for a visit, their friends took one look at their yoga pants, sneakers and caps and told them they were becoming New Yorkers.
Eager to cater to all women, the duo said, “Our product is Offtrack. It’s not luxury or streetwear. Our communication is offtrack. Everything we want to do is off-the-beaten track,” Alix said. “Our whole identity is about, ‘Live according to your energy.’ We’re here to make you feel empowered because you feel good in your skin and comfortable. You can do whatever feels good of you and not whatever a brand tells you to do.”
The tannery that Offtrack works with pioneered stretch leather with Jitrois and Jean Paul Gaultier in the Eighties, Blanchard said. Self-financed, the pair launched Offtrack with $10,000, which covered prototyping, web site development and everything else. They have “met with a lot of VCs who are interested but we want to try without VC funding [for the time being]. They take 50 percent of your company, they tell you what to do. We think that’s what makes a lot of brands go down because they need to be profitable [in a set period of time] and exceed this, this and this. I think by doing one thing right and taking your time, you don’t crash yourself. You’re here for a longer time,” Alix said.
Still in the early stages of getting the word out about their brand, Blanchard said, “We are pretty confident that there is a market and it’s going to succeed. We really want to go back to VCs and investors with real sales and real traction.”
Limited-edition colors are being added selectively to their assortment of leather leggings on a limited basis, like Supreme’s model “of one color and then out,” Blanchard said. products like a bodysuit may be added. In 10 years, the company hopes to bring its Offtrack mindset to “all the noble materials,” whether that be silk or cashmere.