When Julia Leach enters a creative office you know it. Yes, she is a statuesque beauty possessed of a rare blend of confidence and kindness, but it is her influence as a brand builder, intuitive aesthete, and purposeful rebel that makes her stand out and that has rippled through some of the world’s most dynamic, innovation-led companies. From overseeing the launch of the Apple Watch to serving as ECD of Kate Spade to supercharging purpose-focused brands ranging from A to B to Q (Apeel, Beautycounter, and Quiet, respectively), Julia is known as a “brand whisperer.” She’s a people whisperer, too, bringing her calm, collaborative spirit to both nurture an inspiring internal culture and set high standards within whichever brand she strides in her signature stiletto heels. Naturally, we had to get her into the La DoubleJ house.


It was slap-bang in the middle of the Covid pandemic, with the streets of Milan mostly empty, and its offices even emptier when Julia uprooted from her home in L.A. to La DoubleJ’s Navigli HQ to become LDJ’s Chief Brand Officer. For Julia, whose minimalist uniform of vintage denim and men’s shirting can be described as “tomboy chic,” it was J.J.’s “vision, energy, fearlessness and heart” that were the main draws to the maximalist world of La DoubleJ. “Both of us are rule-breakers,” Julia says. “Neither of us wants to do what’s been done before, but we go about it in different ways. Her: whirling dervish, creating good chaos. Me: calm, strategic, creating clear order. Her: a firehose of ideas, a creative maven. Me: an editor, a sense maker, a strategist.” Put it this way, if J.J. is the dramatic gown in the boldest DoubleJ print, Julia is the Poet Shirt in the crispest white cotton poplin. The result, however, is a fire-cracking partnership, each playing Yin to the other’s Yang in an inspirational and influential relationship grounded in balance and deep respect. In Julia’s words, “As J.J.’s creative partner and co-captain, I give her space to soar and do what she does best, and vice versa.”

“I’d been a pescatarian for years until I encountered two approaches to roasted chicken that I couldn’t resist, (a) Gjusta in LA and (b) Giacomo Rosticceria in Milan. The latter is tender and flavorful, and I love the classic dining rooms, downstairs and up. This is my first stop with friends from out of town, to sit and linger and feel very much at home in the city’s “garden district,” sharing a whole chicken, crisp green beans, and cold vino bianco.”

Shop Julia’s LDJ Picks for a Minimalist in a Maximalist World

On paper, Julia’s La DoubleJ world revolves around overseeing content, creativity, community, and marketing in all physical, digital, and experiential aspects. But behind all that, it’s people that stoke her creative firepower. “Sisterhood” pulled her towards the La DoubleJ team, as did the opportunity to “galvanize women around the world with J.J.’s message based on the power of joy and optimism.” When Julia leads a team, she takes care to get to know it intimately, developing meaningful relationships with every player no matter their role or rank. “I love spotting talent and mentoring,” she says. “The people that were part of the business when I joined and the people we’ve hired since are super smart, hard-working, creative, kind, collaborative, appreciative, and ready to do the best work of their careers.”

You could say she has taken the same approach to discovering her new home, Milan, diving in deeply and meaningfully to soulfully connect with new pockets of the city. “Milan is very much an onion, with many layers to peel back,” she muses. “Each reveals a different aspect of Italian beauty, culture, and history. It’s not showy, like Paris, nor sprawling, like London. I love that Milan is mysterious, understated, intimate, and strong, and once you find your way into the heart of it, there is a deep warmth, generosity, and grace that is enveloping and irresistible, if you’re patient.”

“I love spotting talent and mentoring. The people that were part of the business when I joined and the people we’ve hired since are super smart, hard-working, creative, kind, collaborative, appreciative, and ready to do the best work of their careers.”


As a former New Yorker, walking is her preferred mode of exploration, for which she swaps her stilettos for box-fresh, customized Nike Blazers. She takes wrong turns, skips subways, and follows her finely-tuned nose for design as she strolls, getting pulled toward unexpected storefronts, vintage typography, and Milan’s maze of intriguing doorways. An integral part of her lifeblood, design can be found wherever she roams. “The center of gravity for Milan is furniture design and architecture, blending history and contemporary aesthetics. In the end, design is everywhere – from Milan to New York to tiny towns and rural communities around the world. Find it in a gallery. Find it in a small-town newspaper. Find it in a hardware store. Find it in nature’s design out in a meadow. Design is all around us.”

As the fortunate recipients of Julia’s generosity and genius inside the office, we have the added bonus of access to her ever-expanding black book of Milanese treasures outside of it. From Magazzino76’s “design nerd” vintage finds to Casa Campanini’s stunning architecture to the purveyor of the city’s very best grissini, here are some of Julia’s Milano gems:


FRANCO, TERESA & FIGLI: “This wonderful frutta e verdura shop was another early discovery when I first arrived in Milan during Covid. It is located near the La DoubleJ office, so I made a weekly ritual of picking up the crispy focaccia, fresh produce, and delicious jams, and now that I’ve moved here full-time, they have my heart. When shop owners put so much love and attention into their displays, I call it “accidental art direction.” I’ve always wanted to photograph these types of shops (in many different categories) around the world and make a book. Maybe one day.”

VICOLO VIA MAMELI:  “The first apartment I stayed in when I started to work with J.J. was near Zona Risorgimento, an area that has become one of my favorite areas of the city. Once again turning down a street that simply looked pretty and intriguing, I came upon one the most charming and individually thoughtful shops in Milan. If you live in New York City or the Hudson Valley, the aesthetic may feel familiar, but in northern Italy, rarely do you find this combination of hand-dipped candles, antique baskets, lamps, and paintings, and jewel-toned pillows and beautiful throws. The owners are most charming, always happy to chat while watering their flowers and herbs out front on a sunny day.”

TERROIR FOOD SHOP: “I find beautiful small-batch jams, honeys, and cheeses irresistible and return regularly to this artisanal food shop that I discovered in October 2020 when it was a bright light and antidote to Carrefour during Covid. Come to feed your soul; come to buy gifts; come for the kind owner who carefully selects pastas, olive oils, breads, juices, wines, and more that align with his philosophy of sharing only the highest quality bio products cultivated by producers who share his commitment and point-of-view.”

PASTICCERIA GATTULLO: “Another find from my stay during early Covid, Gattullo Pasticceria is truly a Milanese hidden gem, set on an anonymous corner just off Corso Italia. I would walk to work along the deserted streets in the winter of 2021, and the minute I set foot in this elegant spot, I felt transported to the heart of Italy by the setting, the people, and the lovely food. Having a glass of prosecco and cornetto salato at the bar will always remind me of my early days in Milan when I fell in love with the city.”

CAMICERIA RIGAMONTI: “On a long Saturday morning walk post-apartment hunting in Città Studi, I spotted this custom shirtmaker just around the corner from Bar Basso. I had the owner, Luciana, customize a menswear button-down shirt pattern specific to my preferences, so I can now add different patterns in cotton and linen to my collection, one after the other, season after season, monogrammed (naturally). Now I’ll never have to worry about half my wardrobe again.”

CASA CAMPANINI: “I’m fascinated by the faces and physical figures adorning buildings in every city I visit, and Milan is full of them. To me, the epic Art Nouveau goddesses flanking the doorway of Casa Campanini represent the abundant beauty and feminine strength of Italy, with their cascading flowers, unfurling scrolls, and towering poses.”

POTAFIORI: “When I first started exploring Milan while I was here during early Covid, the flower shops and food stores were the only stores allowed to remain open for business (in addition to perfume, chocolate, and lingerie shops…of course, this is Italy!). I was drawn into the jungle-like atmosphere of Potafiori and charmed by owner Rosalba Piccini, also an opera singer, so now pass by for flowers and plants as often as I can, especially for gifts and as I plan to get situated in my new apartment.”

121+ LIBRERIA EXTEMPORANEA:  “I have a finely attuned antenna for design book shops, and 121 Bookstore is one of the most charming and well-curated in Milan situated on Via Savona in Zona Solari. It’s part of Corraini Edizioni, a publishing house and art gallery with a close association with design legend Bruno Munari and a history of amazing collaborations with everyone from Enzo Mari and Paul Rand to Steven Heller and Peter Mendelsund.”

MAGAZZINO76: “On the hunt for pieces for my new apartment, I came across this vintage design shop which has an abundance of furniture and home decor finds at their main location (Via Padova 76) and a more curated selection at their smaller shop in Città Studi at Via Cecilio Stazio, 18. Their inventory will look and feel familiar to design nerds, but with a particularly Italian bent.”

GRISSINIFICIO EDELWEISS: “Half the satisfaction and fun of settling into a new city is discovering unique places on your own, and the other half is getting insider tips from new people in your life. My dear friend and creative collaborator Joann Tan gave me this great recommendation, a shop selling nearly exclusively grissini. Everyone who tries them agrees that they’re the best in Milan.”

CARDI GALLERY: “It’s more challenging to find the pulse of the contemporary art scene in Milan than it is in New York, London, or LA, but it’s certainly here and, as with everything else, often tucked away behind beautiful doorways and tree-lined courtyards. Cardi Gallery was an early find and a space I plan to return to regularly as they represent artists and curate shows focused on minimalism, spatialism, and art povera, all movements that speak to me conceptually and emotionally.”

FRATELLI BONVINI: “I was introduced to Fratelli Bonvini by our design super sleuth, Livia Satriano, who, like me, has a penchant for vintage books, typography, and obscure ephemera. Go to this special cartoleria for the beautiful stationery. Stay for the journals and printed matter, vintage pens and pencils, and rare volumes on photography, graphic design, art, and illustration.”


DOORS OF MILANO:  “For me, the aspect of Milan that stole my heart was the passel of discreetly exquisite doorways that I discovered during long cold winter walks in 2021 when I first started working with J.J. By the time spring arrived, I’d peered into so many of them to catch a glimpse of striking stained glass doors, finely crafted marble stairways, exquisite tile floors, all so very different yet unifying the city through history, materials, beauty, and design. They lead you into the understated grandeur of buildings that are classically Milanese and that have opened up a world to me that I now call home.”


Grazie Julia for bringing your creativity, your kindness, and your California cool-ness to share with us. Our Milano is all the more magical for having you in it.