NEW YORK — Julia Leach leaves nothing to chance — pun intended.
Leach launched Chance, a new lifestyle label, late last summer, but unlike other newcomers, she took a holistic approach. She started with a soup-to-nuts lifestyle offer, from T-shirts to espadrilles, hats, jewelry and towels — and a comprehensive branding strategy with special initiatives and a photo catalogue that could easily become an ad campaign.
Branding is something Leach knows about. She spent 11 years at Kate Spade, where she was creative director, working directly with Kate and Andy Spade. She left the brand in 2007 after it was sold to Liz Claiborne Inc.
“I kept thinking it was time for a new challenge,” the Minnesota native said of her decision to go out on her own. Leach found inspiration in a simple striped T-shirt she stumbled across at a vintage store in Paris’ 18th arrondissement, and tried to give the wardrobe staple a new twist with striped shirts, dresses, tanks, pool shorts and rompers. Her vision goes beyond clothes and includes hats, canvas totes, espadrilles and beach towels in bright colors and emblazoned with words such as “Reserved” and “SPF 10,000.”
As for the label, “I didn’t want to use my own name and I didn’t want it to be a French name, since that can be pretentious,” she said. “I was watching ‘Being There’ with Peter Sellers one night, and his character’s name is Chance.” The kind, curious, optimistic side of his role appealed to her, and reflected the values she was planning to instill in her label. “I also wanted something that was unisex, as I have men’s in the works,” she said.
The collection was introduced in August at Chanceco.com. The site is full of special features that contribute to the line’s branding, from a portrait series of Leach’s friends in her clothes to a short video about the Chance sensibility directed by Risa Mickenberg.
Suggested retail prices range from $42 for tank tops to shirts from $55 to $65 and dresses for $125. For fall and holiday, Leach added pajamas, scarves and travel blankets. She estimated $800,000 to $1.2 million in first-year retail sales. “Hopefully, I will open my first store by spring,” she said.
Leach is already thinking beyond that, though, and can envision Chance eventually spinning off diverse businesses such as books, beach bungalows and even a small seaside hotel. “It’s the idea of possibility,” she said. “Anything can happen.”