The best way I know how to describe what Julia Leach does is that she’s a brand whisperer. She has such a strong personal aesthetic and a background as a creative director (at Kate Spade) and designer (for her own line Chance) that companies from Apple to Ralph Lauren to Beautycounter have sought her advice. Recently, she launched Sublime, a strategic brand studio where she is the co-founder/Executive Creative Director and the company’s goal is to “partner with business leaders who are driven to make a difference in a changing world, helping the world’s most innovative companies transform and drive business growth.” Currently, Julia is self-isolating at “On The Rocks,” the Palm Springs home of NYC-based creative director James Spindler, where she has been for the past six weeks. Julia applies her superb eye to every aspect of her life; lucky for us, she agreed to share some of it in her Quarantine Questionnaire.
What are you wearing often/too often? I came out to “On The Rocks” for one week in early March pre-lockdown, then wound up staying for six, so I’ve had to make due with what I packed — mainly button-downs from Save Khaki and vintage Turnbull and Asser, ancient Levis cut-offs (plus a pair of pull-on denim shorts from the brand I used to have, Chance), and a candy apple red bikini from J. Crew and a marine blue one from Malia Mills. I haven’t minded the lack of options at all.
Your go-to video conference outfit: Men’s button-down shirt and my usual mix of silver jewelry, which includes rings and bracelets by Kendall Conrad, bracelets and necklaces by Ursa Major, and other pieces that were gifts from my mom and a dear friend. (To be honest, since I’m in the desert, bottoms range from cut-off jean shorts to bikini bottoms to boy shorts. Why not?)
Favorite place at home to sit and work: I start the day at James’ dining table, a serene spot with a view. Then I move into the guest room to work for the day.
New Insta discovery: @Casa_Ayllón, an accessories company in Argentina. They have a reductive, soulful aesthetic, posting art, travel, music, and style imagery inspired by a simple life well-lived.
Daily ritual you miss the most: Picking up smoked salmon and iced tea every morning from Gjusta, my neighborhood canteen in Venice. Hope to resume this soon.
Daily ritual you practice: 5-mile walk every day at 5 o’clock. It’s methodical and meditative, and I’m out for a couple of hours while the sun sets.
Daily ritual you’ve continued : Making playlists. Always. On my walks, in my car, in every spare moment, I’m exploring music. Here’s the first from this past few weeks.
Daily ritual you’ve discovered: I’m reading again, every morning and every night. I’ve always loved language nearly as much as imagery, but at some point in my life, time and distractions took me away from books. It’s good to be back.
Latest read: These are all in regular rotation. Finally finishing “Out of Sight: The Los Angeles Art Scene of the Sixties,” which has been on my bedside table forever. In addition, I like going between “There & Then: The Travel Writing of James Salter,” a transporting series of essays by my favorite author; “Nature All Around: Trees,” as I love leaves, plants, flowers, nature, and this is an easy way to learn more; Am (slowly) making my way through the biography “Agnes Martin : Her Life and Art“; and skipping around the pages of Ron Padgett’s “Collected Poems.” Overall, I feel drawn to essays, short stories, and poetry as it’s more satisfying in this moment than focusing on longer novels. Here’s a short poem by Brian Andreas that seems apt for these times, when we yearn for human touch.
Favorite recipe: Mayan citrus salsa (“Xec”) over red snapper or black cod. I discovered this salsa recipe via the New York Times a while ago, and now I wing it and use whatever’s on hand. For the past few weeks it’s been grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, lime, cilantro, shallots, habañero pepper, salt and pepper. You could add finely diced jicama, mango, or cucumber as counterpoints to the citrus. I’m crazy about grapefruit and limes, so lean in that direction. Also, shallots are magic in any recipe.
Mood booster : The sound of a friend’s voice…hearing someone I love on the other end of the line.
Favorite hour of the day and why: Daybreak. I’m up early and to see the sun rise in the desert is nourishing and reminds me how important a connection to nature is in my life.
Favorite COVID-related cause: L.A. Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund to help support fellow Angelenos. To contribute in a more targeted way, there are so many important initiatives seeking funding on GoFundMe.
Something you love to do that you can share with others: See above, making playlists, and also since collaboration with creative people is central to what I do creatively, I’ve started a writing/visual expression series on IG. I pick a piece of writing, and a friend visualizes it in some way (illustration, design, photography, etc.). It keeps the creative connection going while we’re all physically far apart. As an aside, I do think that, on some cosmic level, this will actually bring us closer together. At least I hope so.
How are you looking at your business differently? I’ve been developing a strategic brand studio, Sublime, with a business partner that I met while working on Apple, and what we do–work as creative partners to CEOs and founders who are driven to innovate and make a difference in our changing world, helping them transform their brands and drive business growth–is more relevant now than ever. So we’re looking at our business essentially the same way, focusing on how we can be as nimble and effective as possible in the weeks and months ahead as business leaders navigate this time of unprecedented change and immense challenge.
What do you miss most? Hugs.
Where will you go on your first post-pandemic trip? Driving, it will be to Marfa in June. Flying, it will be to Minnesota to see my dad and family, fingers crossed, not long thereafter. Further ahead, I really hope to go to France at Christmas to see my mom, and to Majorca in January to explore new goals and dreams.
What do you hope the new normal brings? More meaningful innovation and more compassion.
Follow Julia: Instagram.