Leisure Lab: Made In LA Brand To Debut at LAMM
Daniel Henson wanted to make leisure clothes that were not only simple and elegant but could hold up through any exercise regimen and any kind of weather. He and business partner Darren Chandlee put together what they believed was the best example of simple, elegant and sturdy clothes for hanging out. They introduced the first styles of the label Leisure Lab in April, which has been sold at the direct-to-consumer site www.theleisurelab.com.
They will introduce Leisure Lab to the wholesale market Oct. 15–16 during LA Men’s Market at the California Market Center showroom building in downtown Los Angeles.
Leisure Lab will be the only made-in-California brand with an activewear edge exhibiting at the trade show, which focuses on streetwear and fashion, said Sannia Shahid, LAMM’s show director.
Eventually, the Leisure Lab co-founders hope to see their brand sold at better department stores. They also hope to continue expanding the brand’s reputation within the market as well as living up to the name of the brand, Chandlee said.
“We wanted to evoke comfort but also a sense of lifestyle,” Chandlee said of the label, whose sense of ease belies the hard work that goes into the label’s mission. “We’re like a mini-lab here. We’re trying to create something unique.”
The line’s styles include T-shirts with subtle design details such as a two-layer neck hem. Designing a front-neck hem shorter than the back hem creates a unique look, Henson said.
The inspiration for Leisure Lab came from an unlikely place. Henson’s previous gig was in costume design, allowing him to work as an assistant designer to Marco Morante, who has made costumes for celebrities such as Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry and Britney Spears. In 2017, Henson was on a job for Morante, making costumes for performances of the final season of the now-defunct Barnum & Bailey Circus in Bradenton, Fla. The hot and sticky weather led him to recognize a need for something new in fashion.
“I was so tired of wearing woven shorts every day. Why don’t I come up with comfortable shorts that do not look like gym shorts?” Henson said. “But they’re versatile enough to look semi-professional.”
After a couple of years making prototypes for the shorts, Henson and Chandlee found what they considered the best expression of what they were looking for. It was a polyester spandex short with a hem that falls above the knee. It feels and looks like a walk short, Henson said. “But I work out in it all the time,” he added.
The shorts feature drawstrings and solid colors of matte black and a dark green. Other looks include a camo-like print and another design with wavy lines.
“We are giving an option of extra style with our prints. The rest are minimal designs and colors that will work everywhere,” Henson said while adding that the shorts and pants feature pockets with extra stitching. “It provides a protective wall against things falling out of a pocket, such as a cell phone. It’s a barrier. Items hit the stitch before they can fall out.”
Price points range from $45 for T-shirts and shorts to $75 for pants with prints.
Next up, the brand intends to design a boxer short, which will be released on www.theleisurelab.comby the end of the year, Henson said.
Chandlee now handles operations for the brand after leaving a career in commodities trading to develop the label. He and Henson had been friends for a few years before launching. Chandlee saw custom shorts that Henson was making for himself and was posting on Instagram. Both co-founders intend to continue manufacturing in Los Angeles.
Working in the same town as their manufacturer not only gives designers more control over their product, but it also affords the opportunity to develop camaraderie.
“We want a family to grow with. We wouldn’t have it if we were making $2 tees overseas,” Chandlee said. “We’re still in an early phase of development. We’re still very much in the lab every day. We’re still trying to create something that can be improved on. We’re always thinking, how can we make things better? We’re constantly looking for better fabric.”
Chandlee said that he wants to maintain close relationships with customers.
“We handwrite notes thanking them for their orders,” he said. “We want them to know that we appreciate it. They’re part of our growth. We want to be there for them.”