High Fashion hits the Streets
“The main thing for us is beauty, and our interpretation of beauty. It could be fucking anything.”
Soho Warehouse in the Los Angeles Arts District was a buzz on a clear and starry Saturday night in March, as the trendiest new streetwear brand, La Ropa, put on a stunning showcase in one of the upstairs rooms. The newest edition to the membership-only club’s nationwide chain, Soho Warehouse boasts multiple restaurants, 48 bedrooms, a health club, and a pool overlooking all of Downtown LA. It was no surprise that this deluxe getaway – a piece of elegance and refinement amidst the industrial landscape – was the venue for this particular fashion phenomenon. The brand itself could be described in a similar manner: high fashion luxury pieces with a gritty, on-the-ground vibe that makes them both statements and everyday wear all at once. As the designers put it, “that’s where we get inspiration from: the streets.”
The story of La Ropa designers Jimbo Williams’ and Aristotle Sanchez’s rise to stardom is just as shocking and catchy as the T-shirt slogan that grabbed the world’s attention: Pussy Builds Strong Bones. (Wild, right!? Read that one twice.) Originally from Toronto, the pair made their way to New York City where they used the nightlife scene to find generous women who provided them shelter ‘til sunup. Yes, you heard me right, they were essentially homeless as they dedicated their days to building their brand. Before long, they made their way to Los Angeles where they found ‘home’ at The Royal Pagoda Motel, making t-shirts (designing, printing, and selling street-side) by day to pay their nightly fee. Again, while they succeeded with their sales, they had yet to find a truly stable place to snooze.
Fame came suddenly, as it often does in Hollywood. One day, Jimbo and Aristotle offloaded a handful of their signature slogan T’s to Grailed, and unexpectedly, an image of Playboi Carti wearing the shirt began circulating on the internet. The trend was set. Hungry buyers eager to imitate flocked to the site and snatched up their sizes. It was only a matter of time before a handful of celebrities began donning the brand as well, including Young Thug and Bella Hadid. T-shirts were just the beginning, of course. Trucker hats, fur vests, and leather jackets all followed, stamped with La Ropa’s kiss.
The brand is anything but boring, adding fur or corduroy to a baseball cap, patchwork, embroidery, and metal stitching to the fly of a pair of jeans. Needless to say, the showcase echoed the brand’s aesthetics. Even the pillows that adorned the room in Soho Warehouse were La Ropa’s signature lips. The models, a sexy selection of men and women who – on their own – embodied the definition of cool, displayed a new assortment of soon-to-drop streetwear: denim sets and decked-out plaid co-ords. Afterwards, I ran my fingers through the pieces hanging on rolling racks, melting in the softness of a cream leather jacket that I instantly wanted to acquire.
Chatting with Jimbo and Aristotle, I was as taken with their easy demeanor as I am with their designs. The pair dished on inspiration, meeting Rihanna, and their favorite parts of Los Angeles, which they now call home. I left with a full understanding of their appeal and equal anticipation for all that will come next for La Ropa.
In 2022, in what ways is La Ropa influencing the fashion industry as a whole?
Jimbo: We’re the brand that kind of just does what we want, from the Internet. We just do whatever the fuck we want. Trucker hats. No one would be wearing trucker hats if it wasn’t for La Ropa. We brought lips back, of course. Flare pants and patch work we brought back.
Aristotle: We have a progressive approach to classic things.
How does your life experience (coming from Toronto, and being nearly homeless in New York and then LA) influence your designs? From where else do you draw inspiration?
Aristotle: The main thing we draw inspiration from is just. . . how life goes. We follow that path.
Jimbo: The main thing for us is beauty, and our interpretation of beauty. It could be fucking anything. Anything that catches our eye is what inspires us. So if we’re out in the streets, it could be the way a cloud looks or the way someone’s shoes are tied or the way a lady’s blouse fits her. It’s whatever is beautiful to us. The streets. That’s obviously where it started, so organically that’s where a lot of the inspiration is from. And also high art. We’re really into fine art, like paintings and sculptures and stuff. That’s where more inspiration comes from. And, of course, our heritage. For me, I’m really into, African figures and African jewelry, and African artwork. So a lot of stuff comes from that.
You explain, in another interview, that your main slogan (Pussy Builds Strong Bones) is an ode to the strength of women. Why is sharing that message so important to you?
Aristotle: Women raised us and women supported us.
Jimbo: The biggest thing through our struggle coming up in America was the support from women, man. It was amazing. And it’s continued and it will always continue. This is how we say thank you.
Aristotle: We support women.
Jimbo: We support women so much that we haven’t even made women’s wear yet because we’re afraid to. I don’t want to make something that you’re not going to wear; I would be so sad. Like if we were to make a dress that girls didn’t like. . .aw! One step at a time.
In an article, you talk about running into Rihanna at Nobu and giving her some pieces. What was that experience like? And who would be your dream celebrity to wear your clothes?
Jimbo: Kanye. To the second question, Kanye.
Aristotle: The way we got celebrities in our clothes is through lifestyle. We ran into people, and we always treated them as people. And we said, hey, I want to gift you something.
Jimbo: And things just happened! When we ran into Rihanna, we were driving to Nobu, and I said, “Watch, Rihanna’s going to be there.” She was there! She walked in, and it was just one of those things. . .meant to be. That’s how a lot of things happen for us because we’re really strong believers in universal laws, laws of attraction. So we got to put it out there for it to come back to us.
What is next for La Ropa and for you both?
Jimbo: On the clothing tip, it’s going to be a lot more cut and sew clothes, our clothing being carried in the high-end retailers, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Saks, Bergdorff Goodman.
Aristotle: The New York store, which is our new flagship. We’re spending a lot more time there developing La Ropa New York. It’s a place we hold dear to our hearts, it’s a very special place, and we want to make our impact there.
Jimbo: Elevating everything. We want to just make more lifestyle clothing, and as our lifestyle elevates, the brand elevates because the brand direct reflection of what’s happening in our lives.
Aristotle: And more than clothing: web three stuff, crypto stuff, NFT stuff, art stuff, galleries, photos, paintings.
Jimbo: La Ropa life is real. It’s a full lifestyle. We’re going to reveal it more and more. It’s going to become more commercial.
"Let's talk all things LA..."
What’s your favorite place to shop in Los Angeles?
Aristotle: The only thing I really buy is shoes, so Nordstrom at the Grove.
Jimbo: If not, then vintage shopping. The Rose Bowl Flea Market.
Aristotle: PCC Flea Market.
What’s your favorite place to go out?
Jimbo: If I can be honest, Universal Studios. First, you gotta go and get doughnuts, then go to a movie, or there’s a really good taco spot, and they have good drinks. It reminds me of high school, like when you used to go out with your friends in high school.
What’s your favorite LA restaurant?
Aristotle: When you asked us ‘what’s next?’ I wanted to say ‘food.’ We love food, so food or a restaurant or something.
Jimbo: There’s a whole hospitality vibe that’s going to come into play.
Aristotle: Bloom Café.
What is one place a vacationer must visit or something they must do while in town?
Aristotle: Get tacos.
Jimbo: Go to Santee Alley.