Creative Spotlight: LPA
Described as “Dolce & Gabbana meets Supreme”, LPA is Pia Arrobio’s dichotomous debut collection. On her journey to launching her very own brand with Revolve; the LA-based designer has held jobs spanning from blogger to designer for the cult favorite clothing line, Reformation. There’s several influences one could identify from the pieces Pia has created--skate culture, Studio 54, and 80’s punk--but one word to sum up LPA is current. It’s a beautifully concise assemblage of aesthetics, attitudes, and eras in the age of non-linearity.
Interviewed by Alexa Wilson of Maladroitez
How did you first get into designing clothing?
I always had an interest, but I was always really intimidated by the whole technical aspect of it, like pattern-making and all that kind of stuff. So when I worked at Reformation, the owner at one point just kind of started calling me into design meetings to give input. I bought a sketchbook and practiced and learned how to sketch and then started designing.
So you didn’t start at Reformation in design?
I started there doing in house PR. I did a million things there. Then I was the brand manager at one point, then I managed the store, I did the social media, I did a little bit of everything.
So I guess your work at Reformation is what most people would know you for. When you left to start designing with Zara in Spain, how did you end up switching and starting to work on this project with Revolve?
I went to interview at Zara and decided I wanted to change my return flight to go to Italy because I had just gotten out of a bad break up. It was just like, I need a vacation or something to make my heart feel good. I asked Emily Ratajkowski to come with me and she was in New York hosting an event with Revolve. When she was at the barbecue, she was hosting a Fourth of July party, and she was talking to the head of marketing rights at Revolve and she was just saying ‘I’m going to Italy to meet my friend, Pia. She just interviewed at Zara.’ and Raissa said to her, ‘Wait what are you talking about, isn’t she super involved at Reformation?’ And she was like ‘Oh she’s been there for a long time and she’s kind of interested in transitioning out of that space.’ Raissa said, ‘Well, you can’t let her go, like we want her.’--so it was amazing. I was like, wait, this is crazy. I ended up going and having drinks with Raissa and really liking her. I never thought they were going to offer me a brand. I thought that they were just going to want me to work in house for Revolve. When she said that she’d give me a brand, it was just the most incredible thing ever.
What is your approach when designing such a stylistically eclectic collection because, to me, LPA looks like this really seamless match up of skate culture, Studio 54, minimalism, and stuff like that?
I basically start by putting together a mood board, but there’s an overall brand identity that’s always going to be there. Like I’m obsessed with the silhouette of the 70’s and I’m obsessed with things that are Italian, but I also grew up in California being obsessed with skateboarders. So my older brother and his friends were so cool--they surfed and they skated. I guess, for me, the thing that’s so important is that I grew up in a really preppy part of Los Angeles called Pasadena and my mom is very--she like curled my hair everyday and she like made little bows and she made me dresses and that was amazing. I didn’t really rebel against her--I loved her, I didn’t need to--but I would see these other kids and they would dress so cool and so forward. I just remember thinking, ‘I don’t have to be just one note.’ Why can’t I be really feminine and also have tattoos and date a skate boarder without having to sacrifice? I just think everybody gets put in these categories and I always really wanted to be all those things so it came naturally when designing the brand that there would be a little bit of [everything].
I looked at your Instagram and you’ve got 48k followers, does your social media presence play into how you work or maybe how you market your brand? Especially compared to when you first started in the fashion industry.
I think that what I’ve always done that’s just worked really well is I’ve always been myself. I used to have a blog that I did out of New York for a long time called ‘Fighting the War Against Blowing It’. It was about moving to New York and being 18, 19, 20; and wanting to go to school and be a professional and do all these things but also having so many distractions. I would write really openly and honestly about everything like my breakups and drinking too much and not getting good grades at school and also doing well at school and how proud I was. I would get emails from people all over the world that would relate to me. I just feel like everybody’s cooked up this persona of who they want to be, but when you start really becoming vulnerable, people start to really pay attention and identify with you. So when I started my Instagram, I just said, ok I’m just going to have my own voice and always just be so open and honest. I think that’s also why I think the brand has done well within that social media climate; because people really feel like they know me, they’re like rooting for me. The process of me signing my contract was on my Instagram, every single step has been on Instagram so it’s been this thing people have been watching.
Yeah, I actually saw the email you sent out about not using Photoshop on the models in your look book on Instagram. So I was wondering why you thought it was an important statement for you to make?
Number one, I have always struggled with my weight, it’s always been (...) like since high school. All my friends were really thin and I have always been a little self-conscious about my weight. So I didn’t think about it before hand to have it be a rule or anything. I remember being in offices and hearing like bosses always give these feedback on images and I would see these beautiful older women who would be like, “Well, you need to stretch her,” or like, “Her thigh looks big.” I just remember how bad it used to make me feel, like it used to make me want to die. It just did, I mean I don’t have long legs, I’m very average height, I literally go between a size 4 and a size 8. I thought, just fuck it. I don’t want to be the human being who’s sitting in a room with a retoucher being like, "So make her legs longer, now bring her leg in here", you know? It’s a funny statement to make because it comes off as this bigger statement, like “I am such a feminist”, but I don’t think it’s any of that. I’m not even like (...) category where people are like “Well, you’re not using plus size models” and I’m not, because I’m not there yet. But just these little things that I could do along the way that I could do a little differently, I’m excited and happy to do and I’m honored that I’m in the position that I can.
I really admired that you did that, I thought that was really cool.
Thank you. I didn’t even think about it beforehand, I was just responding to an email, like, “Ugh, I don’t want to do this”. I don’t want to sit in a room with a retoucher and talk about a model’s body. One of my model’s is 17--what am I going to do, tear her body apart? She’s such a lovely girl, I didn’t want to partake in that.
It’s just so strange that the norm is to edit the photos that it becomes such a statement to not edit them.
Well, obviously because, like albino dolphins get chased out by their little packs because other dolphins don’t get that they’re albino. In every aspect of the world--through all animals, everywhere, every thing, every living being on this Earth--it’s attracted to things that are attractive, you know? It obviously makes sense to sell clothing that you’re just going to make the models as attractive as they can be. I get it, but maybe it means that I need to design better clothes if they’re not gonna sell if they’re not on a tall skinny person. Do you know what I mean?
I know what you mean. So this is kind of similar to the question about how there’s a lot of influences in your designs like skate culture, but I was wondering if there’s any specific style icons or fellow designers that inspired you during your design process.
Well a lot of the silhouettes are from vintage. Since I was in high school, I would always go vintage shopping. That also has a lot to do with me not being able to fit into the perfect little clothes that were at all the boutiques. I just think those silhouettes are super important, certain things that make a woman’s body look really good. Accentuating your waist; it’s the smallest part on a woman’s body, you should always accentuate the waist. If somebody’s down to show their décolletage, definitely show décolletage. It makes you look really attractive--collar bones are beautiful. Women are very self-conscious about the upper back of their arms, a lot of them don’t like their upper, upper thigh so I try to think about all that kind of stuff. When it comes to icons, I mean just Studio 54. I love all the Italian bloggers . I think they’re so chic. Like Giovanna Battaglia, Patricia Manfield, Gilda Ambrosio--I just think they’re so cool. I love Chloë Sevigny.; so Chloë Sevigny and Sophia Loren are my two favorites.
What is your favorite piece in the collection?
In the Fall collection, it would be the hoodie with the flames on it.
Same, same. I saw that Instagram and was like “Oh my god, I love this!”
It’s so funny, right? We were sitting in the office--I have an amazing graphic designer named Jenny, and she is super cool and loves the same rappers that I like, so that was like our bonding project.
What’s your ideal day in LA?
My ideal day in LA is what I did this weekend. Which is I woke up and I was a little hung over because I’ve been celebrating the launch. I literally had seven of my guy friends from New York over and they all brought rosé. It was me and my roommate, Ashley, and we sat in the pool and drank through our hangovers and then went inside and played charades and then went to a shitty bar. That was like the perfect LA day.
*Images courtesy of brand
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