By Rod Kurtz
LPA, created by the outspoken Pia Arrobio, has found an A-list following for just that reason
Here’s a fun fact about Pia Arrobio, the straight-talking, high-energy creative director behind the fashion label LPA: She doesn’t know how to sew.
But that hasn’t stopped her from helping LPA, a “sexy/cool” women’s apparel brand that just celebrated its first anniversary, become a favorite of the Kardashians, other Hollywood A-listers, and sexy/cool women everywhere.
Arrobio may not make the clothes herself, but she handles virtually everything else—sketching designs, selecting fabrics, presenting to buyers, overseeing photo shoots, gifting, directing social media, and beyond. Perhaps most importantly, though, her personality and personal style power the brand ethos, which seeks to make fashions that are flattering, comfortable, approachable, and yes, sexy and cool.
It almost never came to be. A few years back, the native Californian was working as a designer for another brand when Zara tried wooing her to a position in Spain. A life of late-night tapas and Rioja was tempting, until word of her possible move spread, and fashion juggernaut Revolve reached out and asked if she wanted to launch a label together instead. (Based, in part, on her popular, cheeky Instagram feed.) Arrobio decided to make that leap instead—and hasn’t looked back since.
We recently caught up with Arrobio during her commute from LPA’s Downtown Los Angeles headquarters, to get her take on risk-taking, how fashion is becoming more democratic, and why she loves to pair a sexy dress with a pair of Vans.
You had what seemed like a dream opportunity to move to Spain—and then took an almost bigger chance to start your own brand. Were you scared?
I have a tough time with the word “entrepreneur.” I didn’t raise money, I never thought I could have my own business because I’m not good with numbers or money. I’m a creative person. At no point did I ever think it was ever appropriate for me to launch my own business unless I had the appropriate partner. I think it’s a big trend now to talk about your fundraising and start a company as fast as you can and sell it as fast as you can. And I want nothing to do with that. I haven’t been to San Francisco in five years.
But you still took a big risk.
Yeah, I am a big risk-taker, but the opportunity was the partnership with Revolve. Some people say, “Oh that’s cheating.” but it’s no different than getting an investor or a production partner. It’s still on me to make clothes that sell. If they don’t, I won’t be there anymore. It was a risk, but it was one I was willing to take.
What are some lessons you’ve learned, especially early on?
I learned to not be so emotionally attached to certain garments. It all comes down to a buyer, and no matter who that buyer is, you’re always shocked to see the final decisions. They’re kind of these very data-driven logistical humans. I don’t have an ego when it comes to that stuff, it’s very rare that I push back. There are a lot of young girls that get very frustrated by that, and it is frustrating, but it’s the nature of the business. I think it’s important when you’re spread thin in one category that you’re solid in another. And if they don’t go for a certain design, at least I have a sample for myself.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs, not just in fashion but the wider world?
I want to see people solve problems from a different perspective. I think there are so many categories that haven’t been disrupted like—I don’t know—how people pierce their ears. There are daily things I come across and think, “There’s a new way to design this that people haven’t thought of.” We’re all in a funnel of looking at the same thing. I don’t think LPA is revolutionary; I make cute clothes that catch your vibe. I wish people were more innovative in the product space, problem-solving.
How do you describe your personal style? What influences it?
I always dress sexy. I don’t mean it sexually, but even if I wear a baggy shirt, it’s a little see-through. I always want to feel feminine, sexy. I grew up in the early ‘90s with my brothers who were surfers and skateboarders. So I wear a lot of slit dresses—with Vans. There’s a lot of sensuality with what I wear, but also how I carry myself. Which is funny, because it’s always the sexy thing that sells well for us, because I underestimate how women want to feel sexy all the time. There’s power to that, if you do it tastefully.
Where do you see the future of fashion heading? It seems to have become more democratic.
There are brands I see all the time accidentally on social and I think, “We’re over, we’re old news.” It happens all the time. People can make cool shit and get it on cool girls right away—I love seeing that. I obviously have a lot of problems with social media like everyone does, but what makes me happy is that it does provide that opportunity. I grew up shopping at boutiques all over Los Angeles that were filled with all kinds of young brands. Every time I would go in, I would discover a new brand. It was so exciting. That doesn’t happen anymore because all those brands are now on the Internet. But I love when I go on the Explore tab and I see new cool stuff. And I sometimes just reach out. I’d rather it be tribal than competitive.
Our guiding principles are Feel, Form, and Function. What keeps you in your lane?
My goal when I initially launched was to make sure every fabric was flattering, all the garments fit every body type. Now, we make 50 things a month and I know I have core fabrics and some things aren’t going to fit everyone, and that’s OK, because there’s still something for everybody. If you’re in your mid-20s at this point, you know what’s going to look good on your body. So when we’re in fittings, I want to make sure you feel comfortable and it’s a garment that always has just a small chance you’ll return it. I ask the models, “What feels weird?” I just want to be thoughtful.
What keeps you going, Every Step of the Way?
There’s LPA, the brand, and then there’s PA, me. Why people like LPA is because there’s a very real, vulnerable person behind it. I think that’s the main reason people care about the brand. I want to capitalize on that in a way that continues to open people’s minds, make girls realize that they’re not alone, that everyone kind of feels the same. It comes down to messaging. I’ll hear, “Seeing you struggle too makes me feel good and beautiful.” Addressing that raging insecurity a lot of girls feel. I would like the brand to grow with me. I’m starting to develop a taste for finer, simpler things. So I’ll be curious how my design changes with that.