An L.A. Designer on How She's Making It in Fashion – M & S
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An L.A. Designer on How She's Making It in Fashion

Everyday

“I brought Ciro,” Lara Pia Arrobio says as she settles into a patio table at Alfred’s Coffee on Melrose Place in West Hollywood, a street now filled with winter light and the constant activity of moving cars. Arrobio is the creative director of LPA, a fashion label under the umbrella of Revolve-owned company Alliance Apparel.

Her rescue bulldog, Ciro—or amore, as Arrobio refers to him—sits by her side. I recognize Ciro from Instagram, including the same chatty, candid attitude I’ve observed from afar on my iPhone. Though I’m sometimes wary of asking questions that are too personal, she isn’t afraid to dive right in. “I’m getting these removed for my wedding,” Pia says as she lifts up the sleeve of her sweater, pointing to a tattoo on her arm that’s been recently zapped with a laser. It’s our first time meeting, but she goes on to share details from her upcoming wedding and speak to her personal insecurities. To be honest, it’s refreshing. That openness, though, carries across to her brand LPA, which is perhaps what makes it so successful.

Right now, we’re seeing a huge shift in the fashion world—one where customers crave connection and a visceral bond to the brands they’re buying into, especially among the younger generations. And instead of more traditional fashion labels that put a wall between the company and the consumer, Arrobio invites us in. She might share comical moments from inside the LPA office, her unfolding romance, or even her personal insecurities, so anyone following along gets the sense that they know Arrobio and can trust her. This willingness to share has earned her, and her brand LPA, a level of trust like that of a close friend.

Just a year and a half ago, Arrobio—formerly holding a hyphenate of jobs including waitress, blogger, photographer, and fashion designer—took the helm of her very own brand. But it was all of those roles that prepared her for what she’s doing now. Hear all about her journey in our chat, below.

Did you always know you wanted to work in fashion?

Yeah, I always did. My first job, I was 12 at my mom’s best friend’s boutique. I always wanted to be around clothes, and I would always have boutique jobs when I was growing up. Then I also really liked writing and I really liked film, so it was always kind of things that were visually stimulating in conjunction with fashion that were always really important to me. And then when I went to Parsons, I studied everything that I’m doing now, which is is amazing.

What happened after Parsons?

I produced photo shoots for a long time. And I was a casting director for a minute, so I did Beyoncé videos with her, cool stuff like that. And then People’s Revolution is where I really took a deep dive. I lived in the back of the People’s Revolution showroom cause I didn’t have enough money to have an apartment in New York, and so she [founder Kelly Cutrone] said, “You can live in the showroom,” and that was insane. We lived above her showroom, which I’d love to write a book about one day. And then I got the job at Reformation, which just kind of set the foundation for everything. That’s where I started designing. I didn’t know I didn’t want to be a designer.

What did you learn at Reformation?

Seeing the way Yael [Aflalo] designed at Reformation, I realized what I really need to know, and what’s important to most girls—and speaking for all of us—is that you feel really cute in your clothes and that you can get them for an accessible price. You can buy them now, wear them now, and feel good. And where you going to wear them? You’re going to wear it to a cute meeting, you’re going to wear it to brunch, you’re going to wear it to a baby shower, and you probably won’t wear it much after that. A lot of pieces, girls don’t want to invest in anymore.

When the brand first started, it was too expensive. We were making things with real silk and really expensive fabrications. And then I kind of just realized, okay, if you can really see the value of a really novelty thing, then you’ll spend the money on it, but for the most part, girls just really want an accessible, pretty dress to feel good in. You know?

Tell me about how you transitioned from Reformation and into your brand at LPA.

Well, I got a job at Zara. So I was going to move there, to Spain. And actually, I had been talking to Zara for probably six months. They kept on emailing me and they were really sweet, but at the time, I had a live-in boyfriend and I just thought, I kind of want to settle down, and moving to Spain seemed insane. I just wasn’t that adventurous at the time. And then we broke up and I was like, I’m taking that interview—I want to get out of here! So, I went to Spain and met with them and had such a great experience. God, this is such a magical place to be and everyone was so lovely. It was literally a campus with people from all over the world. What a cool experience. So, I was like, why not, right?

So I took the job and posted it on Instagram. I was like, “Moving to Spain to work for Zara,” and then Raissa [Gerona] from Revolve reached out to a mutual friend and was like, “Wait a second—we’ve always wanted to work with Pia. We never thought she would leave Reformation.” So she and I had a cocktail one day after work, and I said, “Do you you want me to work for Revolve?” And she said, “We just want to give you a brand. We have 10 that are doing really well, and we’d love for you to have one.” I remember leaving that meeting and getting in the car and calling my mom, and we just cried. I never thought I would get a job at a place like Zara, and then to think I would get my own brand. I was like, “Mom, you thought it was good before—listen to this!” And we were both like, “Oh my god!” And so for three weeks, I had to pick. I literally talked to every spiritual adviser, every therapist. I went to a Turkish guy who reads your coffee grinds, which was so cool. He was right about everything he said.

What did they tell you?

He didn’t tell me where I would go, but he said something bigger is going to happen than what you think is going to happen. It has your name on it. He also said I was going to fall in love with someone whose middle name started with an R whose first language wasn’t English and that he used to play a professional sport. (My fiancé’s middle name is Roberto. He’s from Italy. He used to play soccer.) So, because of that, I was like, oh, I’m moving to Spain. Who am I going to meet here? But it was this moment where I said, What’s your endgame? I mean, to get the title of creative director. Why would I put that off? And then hope another opportunity like this ever came around?

How did you jobs prepare you for LPA?

All my jobs in New York—I had a million jobs—were very fashion-centric, and I just didn't know what I wanted to do in fashion. As long as I was paying my rent, I wanted to be able to explore, and I knew it would come to me, you know? And then it totally did. So, I remember being at Reformation and being like, what the hell am I going to do after this? And then the perfect thing happened: I was given LPA. I know how to design a lot of things at one time because I was doing that at Reformation. I know how to run social media because I started the Reformation Instagram. I know how to throw events from all my freelance jobs at People’s Revolution. I know how to do a little bit of PR. I know how to cast because I was a casting director. I know how to put together a photo shoot because I was a producer. All of a sudden, every single thing I had done had led up to this moment. I said okay, this makes sense, you know? I believed in myself, I knew something would happen, and it did.

So who is it that you’re designing for? Are there any muses you have in mind?

You know what’s so funny? I don’t want to be Pia-centrical this point, but every time we design something, I’m like, Will I wear it? Because there’s times where I’m thinking too much about what’s going to sell that I lose track of it being something that I would wear. And I get lost in data sometimes. So literally I am like, Would I wear this? Because I’m not a super-forward dresser. I’m pretty basic. I want to feel pretty in a wrap dress. I want to feel cool in a pair of leather pants. I’m also not really tall, I’m not super skinny, so I want things to be flattering. I feel I’m an average human when it comes to style and how I want to feel in clothes. So, I always have to think about that.

I also love all the Italian girls, like Sophia Loren. I look at her for references all the time. That’s why I always go back to vintage, too—a cinched waist and and open neckline, something that’s really feminine, that’s where all my inspiration comes from.

You just launched bags. Tell me about that.

I wanted something that was dainty that you could put your phone in but that wasn’t too big, and then something you could wear crossbody and have a removable strap. Just a little lady bag that also wasn’t super, super small. So, this is what we came up with, and we’re doing a couple iterations of this too. We have a fanny-pack one coming out, which is going to look so cute. One with sequins and fun stuff coming.

I also wanted to ask you about social media. It’s such a big part of the fashion industry, and I would love to know how it has impacted your career and LPA.

I mean, it’s just undeniable: The only reason I have the brand is because Raissa was following me on Instagram.

And you have this sense of sense of candor and realness on your Instagram that plays into LPA. Is that something you do consciously?

My blog was like that. I’m just like that in person. It’s exactly me.

Ed. note: Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.



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