The quest for the perfect striped boatneck T-shirt was the inspiration behind Chance by Julia Leach, a new lifestyle brand that has popped up for the month of June at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills. "The striped shirt is the paper clip of personal style," says Leach of the shirt that captured her imagination. (Indeed, after several seasons of seeing them everywhere from the runway to the sidewalk, it is probably time to stop calling striped shirts a trend and start calling them a classic.)
When it comes to branding and style, Leach knows what she's talking about. Splitting her time between New York's Lower East Side and Los Feliz, she is the former creative director for Kate Spade, where she worked for 11 years, and a current creative director at ad agency Wieden + Kennedy (Nike, Coca-Cola, Old Spice). She launched Chance last year with a pop-up shop in New York. That first collection was more East Coast (think navy-and-white stripes), but this one is all California.
Located in the Co-op department, the pop-up features striped shirts in several iterations _ long-sleeve, cap-sleeve, henley and polo styles, $68 to $105 _ and in hues inspired by the SoCal landscape, such as cactus green, pool blue and watermelon pink. The charming Elliott style ($98) features a pattern of hand-drawn stripes by artist Elliott Puckette.
But the line is more than just shirts. It's really about summer essentials, including babywale corduroy beach shorts ($75), racerback jersey dresses ($155) to throw on for dinner, beach towels ($185) emblazoned with cheeky words such as "Reserved" and "Paradise," floral sun hats ($165), turquoise star earrings ($140) and wave cuff bracelets ($395) designed in collaboration with Kate Jones.
Everything has a pared-down, classic simplicity to it. Instead of a logo, for example, Leach has labeled a tote bag ($235) with the architectural drafting symbol for a body of water. "Graphic design is a rich place for me," she says. "And utility is important," she adds, pointing to the small towel included in the front pocket of the tote "for brushing sand off your feet."
Although nostalgia is part of the Chance sensibility (her website features a great striped shirt timeline from 1858 to the present), the goal is "to make pieces you would come back to again and again," says Leach, who lists hiking and lounging in Palm Springs as two of her favorite California activities.
Though she is not sure where the collection will take her next, travel and sense of place will continue to be her guide.
"I am always planning my next trip," Leach says.Chance, $68 to $185, is available at Barneys New York and at ChanceCo.com.