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NYT Syndicate
Two summers ago Lara Pia Arrobio was working as a designer for the clothing company Reformation when she was recruited by Zara, the fast-fashion behemoth, for a job at its headquarters in Spain.
“I got wasted with the HR girl after my interview,” Arrobio recalled recently.”She said, ‘You’re going to gain weight. All the American girls eat so much pan con tomate.'”
Arrobio embraced this possible destiny.

Recently split from a boyfriend, she envisioned falling in love with an attractive Spanish man and settling down in La Coruña, the port city where Zara is based. But first, she wanted to take advantage of being in Europe on someone else’s dime.
A friend, model and actress Emily Ratajkowski, joined her for an Eat, Pray, Love-style romp through Italy.

Ratajkowski had mentioned Arrobio’s plan to Raissa Gerona, the chief brand officer of Revolve, a company for which Ratajkowski modelled.
“It sounded crazy,” Gerona said. She followed Arrobio on Instagram and admired her unfussy style and real-talk captions (“I had a bad day, okay?” alongside a hamburger and fries). She asked Ratajkowski for the designer’s phone number.”I told Pia, ‘You’re great, you’re super-talented, I love what you stand for. If we can do a brand with you, I don’t want you to move to Spain.

‘”
A brand? Of clothing? But Arrobio couldn’t sew.
Gerona’s response:”‘It’s all good.

We have all those systems in place to incubate people like yourself so you can focus on what you can do. And what you can do is build a brand: have a vision of who your girl is, what she likes to do, what she likes to post about.

That’s what makes a brand now.'”
Within a month, Arrobio backed out of the Zara gig and signed a different set of papers.
So goes the origin story of LPA, a year-old clothing line that has been taken up with enthusiasm by many in Hollywood and beyond who are perhaps weary of the official fashion calendar’s incessant drumbeat, and its prices.

The clothes aren’t masterpieces of tailoring ” something Arrobio, 30, is the first to admit. With prices mostly in the two or three figures, her studded leather jackets and slinky slip dresses look not unlike what stuffs the racks at H&M and Forever 21.
But while corporate boardrooms the world over strive to reverse-engineer an aura of feminist independence for their brands, Arrobio’s is genuine.

And it has attracted a number of vocal, high-profile fans, including Lena Dunham, who may succumb to big designer names like Prada or Giambattista Valli for red-carpet appearances but wore a black halter neck LPA dress for a recent Hollywood Reporter cover.

“I wanted something that said, ‘I know and own my power,’ and LPA says that to me,” Dunham wrote in an email, adding that Arrobio”understands women’s bodies, the playful spirit of businesswomen now, and what makes us feel sexy and seen.”
Because of her technical deficiencies ””I can’t make a pattern to save my life,” Arrobio said ” she has a right-hand man, designer Tim Nguyen.
On a recent Monday, Nguyen, his hair in a floppy bun, came over to his boss with three swathes of floral-print polyester blend.”This one, I’m like, obsessed with,” he said, holding up a tan cloth patterned with hibiscus blossoms.
“That one is sweet,” said Arrobio, who sometimes paints patterns in watercolour.

Arrobio is but one in a growing number leveraging social networks to make fashion brands. Every few months, Iris Alonzo and Carolina Crespo, alumnae of American Apparel, ask people they admire ” model Adwoa Aboah, photographer Jean Pigozzi ” to describe one item that’s missing from their closet, then they make it for Everybody.

World, their made-in-Los Angeles line.
Self-described BFFs Natasha Oakley and Devin Brugman turned their joint Instagram account A Bikini a Day, which showcases exactly what its name describes, into swimwear and active wear lines beloved by their buddies on and off social media (they sometimes send Arrobio suits; she gives them feedback).
Runway presentations are not Arrobio’s thing.”It’s so much money, it’s a waste of my time,” she said.

“Once people see it on the runway, it’s old news.”
In its first year, LPA did approximately $5 million in sales, according to Revolve. By comparison, Zara’s annual sales, according to Forbes, were $17.2 billion.

Of course, revenue is an important goal.”It’s great to have feelings about what’s going to sell, but ultimately numbers don’t lie,” Gerona said.”Revolve is an incredibly data-driven company, and we train all of our designers and creative directors like this: ‘Here’s what really moved, here’s what some of the misses were.'”
LPA doesn’t advertise in Vogue or on television; the 93,000 followers of the brand’s Instagram account see images of women wearing LPA in the real world, sometimes eating pasta. For a coming magazine ad, Arrobio stifled an impulse to make a collage of model photos and instead drafted a page of text that read:”We want you to feel beautiful.

” She threw in one of her favourite expletives and LPA’s website address.
“The editor said, ‘We really want a photo,’ and I said, ‘Then don’t use it.'” She shrugged.

“I don’t think LPA will change anything for high fashion. Gucci, Dolce, Isabel Marant, they are entities. They aren’t going to go anywhere. But hopefully, people like me are paving the way to have this be the standard of what girls expect, which is depth and value.”.

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Posted on Sep 6, 2017

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