Live Purely with Pia Baroncini
Live Purely with Pia Baroncini

"I just learned that you just have to f*cking pay attention to details, you need to ask questions. You cannot assume anything." 

- PiaBaroncini

Pia Baronicini: From Crying at Vogue To Building Her Own Empire

Elizabeth welcomes the incredibly talented Pia Baroncini. Pia, the brains behind LPA The Label, a chic womenswear brand under Revolve, is truly a force to be reckoned with. She's also the charismatic host of "Everything is the Best" podcast on Dear Media, the creative mind behind her husband’s clothing line Ghiaia Cashmere, and the co-founder of Baroncini Import. Pia first talks about the path that took her to creating this empire, and the lessons she learned about paying attention to detail and managing both a brand and its people. Pia spills the tea on working with the infamous Kelly Cutrone from ‘The Hills’ as an early employee, and what it’s really like working in many roles within the fashion industry. Pia lets us in on some of her favorite wellness essentials and mind blowing moments from her own podcast.

  • PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

    Elizabeth Stein 00:00
    Hi, everyone. I'm Elizabeth Stein, founder, and CEO of Purely Elizabeth. And this is Live Purely with Elizabeth, featuring candid conversations about how to thrive on your wellness journey.

    This week's guest is Pia Baroncini, creator and creative director of LPA the Label, a high-end contemporary womenswear brand owned by Revolve. She's also the host of Everything Is The Best on Dear Media, CMO of Ghiaia Cashmere, her husband's clothing line, and co-founder of Baroncini Import & Co. Which brings Italian goods stateside. In this episode, Pia shares all about her career journey and lessons learned while at her first job in PR, at People's Revolution, with the infamous Kelly Cutrone from the Hills, as an early employee and designer at Reformation, and ultimately how she became creator of LPA the Label for Revolve. We talked about what it's like to be a creative director for a clothing business, how she manages multiple brands, and motherhood. Some of her favorite lessons learned from her podcast guests, including her health journey, along with some of her favorite wellness essentials. Keep listening to learn all about Pia.

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    Pia, welcome to the podcast. It's so nice to meet you and so excited for our conversation today.

    Pia Baroncini 02:15
    Me too. I ingest all of your products often. My daughter especially, is obsessed with all your stuff.

    Elizabeth Stein 02:23
    How old is your daughter?

    Pia Baroncini 02:24
    She’s two.

    Elizabeth Stein 02:25
    Oh, I love it. We'd like to start them young. So before starting your career at creating LPA, you had a very interesting background. And I’d love to start with that journey because as you think about where you are today, so much of that, I'm sure, influenced the learning. So, let's start with what you were doing before creating LPA and what got you there. Where are you from originally? Let’s start with that.

    Pia Baroncini 02:51
    I'm from Pasadena. This was the house I grew up in which I currently live in and own. I loved growing up here and got into Parsons. I got into Eugene Lang first at the new school and went to New York, which was incredibly shell-shocking. I switched my program to the design and management program at Parsons, which was incredible.

    Elizabeth Stein 03:20
    And did you always know that you wanted…?

    Pia Baroncini 03:23
    No, was creative. Have you ever seen the movie Rushmore? I always say I was like that. My grades were just okay. But I was the leader of every club and the student activities director, leading all of our school things. I wrote for the school news every morning, wrote for the paper, and was in the theater club video production club. So very social, and very creative, and I like to organize people create moments, and amplify things that are going around to create a better community at my school. I had the privilege of going to a private school, that allowed me to do that. And I applied to 20 colleges because I had no clue who would take me. I knew I would end up where I was supposed to but I had a really good portfolio of work that I had done. I got in there and was extremely shell-shocked but hit the ground running. I didn't even dorm. I went straight from my childhood bedroom to an apartment on the Lower East Side. I cried every day for a year. I never had boyfriends in high school and I got a boyfriend there who's just like bad. Like real graffiti, sold pot and took advantage of me.

    Elizabeth Stein 04:51
    A great introduction to the Lower East Side of New York.

    Pia Baroncini 04:53
    Yeah. And he called me four months ago and apologized. I wish he had done it once before because he works the program. And so I was like, “Oh, do you have to redo your steps again? I'm gonna make another call like, we already went through this.” But I was like, “You cost a lot of trauma for me like a young woman. So, I do deserve this apology.” He's like, “Is there anything I could do?” I said, “I mean, if I was gonna put a price on it, I'd say $250,000.” Just fucking with him. What I started doing by accident, which was cool, was producing photoshoots. So there was a girl who lived across the street from me. At the time, all the big photographers like Dan Martensen and Tim Barber, it's such a different landscape now, but there were a handful and Ryan McGinley, there were always very cool New York photographers, and the jobs that paid you a lot. It was a catalog. So it was anthropology. And that was like the great money jobs you could do in between editorials to pay your bills. There was a girl who lived across the street from me who was a photographer, this is right at the beginning of blogs. And she's like, “I haven't gotten an urban job in a long time.” And she had so much personal work on her blog. She was really into these metal kids that lived in Rhode Island. And I was like, “Well if I looked at your work, I wouldn't think that you could shoot like a beautiful girl running through a field. Because all your work is like heavy metal kids”. She’s like, “Oh, I didn’t think about that.” And I was like, “Yeah, it's very specific. So I was like, why don't we do a shoot? And you can have something more feminine but through your lens. So you could have just a different body of work. But around me, we can find a magazine that will post it as an editorial.” So I got all these cool girls together. Some girls are like a very big deal now, which is funny. And we got this cool stylist, this French girl who now styles for French Vogue and stuff, and did this shoot. And that was a huge aha moment for me because then I started doing other work like that. And then realized that college was very expensive, and something that I kind of couldn't afford. I was just going deeper into debt. My dad was a dentist, he was just like a nice middle-class kind of guy. But one of their best friends was a financial advisor and said he was investing their money and he wasn't stealing all of it. So, I got this call from my mom saying that Morry is in jail, he's stolen all of our money, everything. So I was like, “I'm gonna drop out of school and start working.” I did and my college counselor at the time was like, you can always come back here, but like you're kind of on a roll with work. Really what matters in this industry is your portfolio more than anything. Four classes left at Parsons, which is sad, and my thesis, but I started working and then I got a job. I mean, this is like really long. I'll just cut it short.

    Then I got a job working for Kelly Cutrone.

    Elizabeth Stein 08:18
    Yeah, that's the part I want to know about as The Hills fan.

    Pia Baroncini 08:21
    Well, I had moved back to LA, I got this cute little apartment, I was like, I'm done with New York. I had wanted to work for her while I was there. And the path didn't cross. Then I got connected to her like six months after I moved back here. I was working a job I fucking hated. I was doing office work in an agency doing deal memos. It was like some Teen Choice Awards. There was some event that was a big deal at the time that's not a big deal anymore. I can't remember what it was. But it was at the Roosevelt Hotel. It was like a bunch of celebrities. Someone was like Kelly needs interns to work this event. By the way, you could never do that now. And I was like, great. She meets me, she looks at me. She's like, “I like your vibe, very Kelly Cutrone.” And I was like, “Thank you.” She's like, “What are you?” I was like, “I’m a scorpion.” She goes, “Me too.” She was like, “You can do the press line.” I'd never done that before. So it was me organizing all the celebrities to walk down the line making sure it was streamlined, making sure all the photographers knew who was coming, bailing out their names, making sure it didn't get clogged, and managing all the personalities. I had never done that before, but I killed it.

    Elizabeth Stein 09:40
    Were you nervous? Or is your personality just like, this is awesome, exciting.

    Pia Baroncini 09:46
    I thrive in stressful situations. That is a happy place for me. At the end of the night, she was like, “That was so smooth. You killed it. You have to come to work for me.” I just moved back to LA. My rent here was like 1200 bucks a month. A tiny studio in New York at that time was like three grand, I was like, I can't afford to move back to New York right now. She was like, “You can live in the showroom.” If you've watched The Hills, there are parts of the show where Robin Berkeley's living in the building. So I was living in that space. The building, she had the second, third, and fourth floors. She rented out one. And the third floor was the office. Then it was her apartment and then the showroom. My little shitty bedroom, which was just a shitty fake wall. I opened it up to the showroom, where all the clothes were. There was no kitchen because it was an event space.

    Elizabeth Stein 10:58
    But how nice that she offered you that.

    Pia Baroncini 10:59
    It was super nice. She was kind of super used to that she's one of those people that's very like, you're in my world now. But it was so crazy. Because there would be times when I would get home. And she'd be like, “I can hear you. I know you're up there. Let's go to Soho Grand and get a drink” or like “Let's do this” or “Meet me at the Lucky Strike in 15 minutes.” I'd be working all day, and then I just got home from an event. I just want to go to bed. But it was cool. It was just complete chaos. It was very crazy. Fashion Week was fucking nuts. I did not know anything about PR. So usually somebody was hired in my position, which was to be Robin Berkeley's assistant. Robin Berkeley was her partner. It was bad because I didn't know any of the editors. Someone for that position needs to have existing relationships with all the editors, at least know who they are, and know how to write a press release. There was a program called Fashion GPS. That's how everyone operated. I didn't know how to use Fashion GPS. Kelly knew that Robin was about to quit. And Robins's right hand was about to leave. She had given her two weeks. Now she runs a huge agency out here. But she was so good. It was great. And she was like a fucking 10. And I didn't know enough. So it was like a drill sergeant course. I made huge mistakes there. I cried at Vogue on my birthday. She was like, “Grab the key pieces. We're going to do a desk-side.” And we go to Vogue. I've never been to Vogue before but one of my best friends worked there. And I just felt so dominant. I didn’t have cool clothes. One of the cute guys from the office styled me and I borrowed from one of the racks upstairs, like it barely fit me because it was never a sample size. So the dipper was unbuttoned. We've got like a belt over. I was like, I feel like such a loser. And then Robin was on the phone the whole time. And we got to vote, and I brought out just one garment bag. She's like, “Where are the rest of the clothes?” I was like, “You said, just the key pieces.” And she was like, “You should have bought at least 25 things.” And I was like, “No, I brought the key pieces.” It was so bad. She screamed at me. I was sobbing. It was my fuckup. I learned you just have to fucking pay attention to details, you need to ask questions. You cannot assume anything. I just went through this with my husband with something. He did something in the last few days. And I was like, “Dude, you didn't ask enough questions.” It was something that was out of your wheelhouse. How are you supposed to know?” that's what got drilled into me when I was working there.

    Elizabeth Stein 13:42
    I do feel like in the PR landscape, especially with fashion PR, while for some people might not thrive in that atmosphere, I feel like you learn so much. It is such a great grounding for any position in your future. But I also think when you're saying that, so much of people not being in office is lost. Like all those little things that you learned being there, and from the people telling you what to do. If you are someone who's working remotely today, that'd be so hard.

    Pia Baroncini 14:13
    I'm very happy that we've created a space where people can have more time with their families and, hopefully, pick up their kids from school or drop them off. Things that I need as a mom and I think we got too hardcore on office life. I don't think it's natural to sit in a fluorescent-lit room on a screen all day. But you have to learn grit somehow. Now everyone would get canceled for the kind of behavior that was happening in the office or the screaming or something. No, I don't think it's right. And as somebody who's a huge people pleaser, especially with the people who work with me, I roll over on my back. I'm not strong enough because I don't want anybody to like me. But I love getting screamed at. How else are you going to learn? I'm sure you can learn in a more constructive, healthy way. But that if you're going to work in such a cutthroat job, I don't know, for me and my personality, it was fine. Anybody who doesn't have my kind of personality, I'm sure has trauma from that experience that they're still going through.

    Elizabeth Stein 15:24
    It worked for you.

    Pia Baroncini 15:27
    This was the most competitive time. We didn't even have Instagram yet.

    Elizabeth Stein 15:38
    What year was this?

    Pia Baroncini 15:39
    I got Instagram when I started at Reformation. I can't remember.

    Elizabeth Stein 15:41
    Thinking back, what was one or two of the best lessons that you learned from Kelly?

    Pia Baroncini 15:48
    Oh, my God. I learned a lot from Robin. Because she was my whole life. Kelly is amazing. I didn't talk to her for years. And then we just started talking. Kelly is a character. She's a really good example of when somebody gets that popular, and then you become almost like a character of yourself. You're getting lauded for this kind of behavior, and you leaning harder. It was cool to watch her and to see. She lives how I would live if I lived in New York. I would have my office on one level and live in the same building. And if anybody needed a place to be, they would be welcome with me. I understood that because I was like, if I was in this position, everybody would be living and working in this. I want to live in New York like I want windows that open to the street. I like public living. I think it's cool. It was just asking questions. Don't assume anything. Pay attention. There was a lot of problem-solving that had to happen but if you make a mistake, you make a huge mistake. One time we were doing an event. I learned how to produce good events, get people to come to things, and make sure that we're getting the proper outcome. It's all the stuff I still do. Events don't stress me. I had a huge dinner here last week for a brand that I love and have a working with and offered to do dinner here. And everyone was like, “Are you okay?” it's stressful because 20 or 30 people are coming here. And there are bartenders, and I have three dogs and a baby. The house seems to look a certain way. It's a whole thing. But I was like, I love this. The bartender didn't show up and wasn't confirming an hour before. I knew who to call. I got it. That set a foundation for me, for all of the jobs that I got afterward. But by the way, Reformation is what changed my life.

    Elizabeth Stein 18:01
    Okay. So, you leave People's Rev. And you go to Reformation?

    Pia Baroncini 18:05
    Yeah… who had started Rev in LA. It was like a cool, culty store over here where they were doing one-of-a-kind vintage pieces, like cutting them up and reselling them, which was cool. And then they were opening a store in New York. And there were like eight employees when I started at Rev, it was so small. And we had hung out socially a few times. And she was like, “I think I want you to come work in-house. We do PR event stuff.” Because she didn't have a lot of social connections in York. It was a total la brand. It was smart of her to hire someone who had been living there for six years. I knew a bunch of people. So we opened up. I started the Instagram, we started the #revbabe. I remember I saw her a couple of weeks ago and another girl who worked with us at that time and who she's still really good friends with, we made up a fake name for the customer service girl. It was someone named Alex because we wanted it to feel personal. We're like what if this person has to quit? it's like we wanted a team. Until she had a fake name, her name was Alex and it was gender-neutral. I remember when the first order came in online for Reformation. We were like we have an order. We joked about that last week. It was like we had an order. What do we do? And it was like pack it up and grab the dress. And she's like, “I'm packing the order.” It was so funny. Considering now, I mean they do fuck billions of dollars a day at this point but it was tough. I made a huge fuckup once ordering a neon sign for the store. This is a really good example we needed to be done. It was like what do the stores look like? And it was like, okay, we're going to use the color red, but only in the form of neon. And then we're going to have green, but only in the form of real plants. Then it'll be like this kind of wood and this color for the wall. So we could create this synergy. So, I'm on the phone with the neon people. And I remember the guy saying, “Do you want clear glass with red conduit or red glass with White Conduit?” And I didn't say, I don't know what the difference is between those two can you show me examples, and I didn't Google it. I guessed. The day before the store opening, we drove from our office downtown, when we pulled up the sign looked pink because I had chosen the white glass with the red through the middle. So it's not very saturated at all. And it was high up on the building, super far away. So it looked pink. And she just turned fucking white. She called the neon people. And then she was like, “Get in the car.” And I remember getting in the car. She was borrowing her grandmother's old Lincoln. And we were driving around Santa Monica and we stopped in front of every store that had neon. She goes, “That's a white conduit.” She couldn't even yell at me. She was so mad. And she was like, “Are you gonna assume anything again?” I was like, “No.” And she was like, I'm here to pay like a million dollars expedite, a new sign and end up going up like an hour before the store opened. Most people would be very dismissive and scream at me and say, “You fucked up.” And she taught me a very big lesson. Who knows how I would have reacted to something like that? knowing how hard she worked every single day to build that brand up to be what it is and to have somebody not give that attention to detail that you're paying them to do that, I understand the frustration. And she just went out of her way to make me learn a big lesson. And then she was like, “We're not going to talk about it again. This won't happen again.” it was a cool approach. And I think about her a lot when I make certain decisions because she's very pragmatic. We watched that brand grow from nothing to what it is now.

    Elizabeth Stein 22:32
    Massive. What an amazing journey for you to be there at the beginning and then see where it is today.

    Pia Baroncini 22:40
    Now they give me stuff. I wore something they gifted me the other day. And I was like, I can't believe I'm a #revbabe.

    Elizabeth Stein 22:50
    How fun. Eventually, you leave Reformation. And what was the path to creating LPA?

    Pia Baroncini 22:58
    I had gotten a job at Zara. They had been poaching me for a while, but I was in a relationship at the time with somebody that I lived with. And they messaged me saying we'd love to interview. We'll fly you to Spain. I remember him saying, “Oh my god, it's so exciting. I would move to Spain.” And I remember thinking like, I don't want to be with you. It was this moment of like, I can't move to Spain with you.

    Elizabeth Stein 23:26
    You're like, I could go to Spain myself.

    Pia Baroncini 23:27
    I'm not supposed to be with this person. He wasn't a bad person. He just wasn't my match. So we broke up. I think they'd reached out again. And at the time, I was like, absolutely.

    Elizabeth Stein 23:42
    By the way, the same thing happened to me before I moved to Boulder. And I was like, There's no way I'm moving with you to Boulder. And then we broke up. And then a month later, I was like, I'm moving to Boulder.

    Pia Baroncini 23:57
    I love Boulder. Amazingly, you get to live there. I took the job interview. I accepted the job. And I went to Italy afterward because they'd booked this roundtrip ticket for me. And I was like this is interesting the only way I could afford to go to Italy. So a girlfriend of mine met up with me in Italy. And she was coming from the Hamptons, from a Revolve event. So they were booking all her tickets, and they were like, “Oh, we saw your ticket to Italy, like what are you doing?” And she was like, “Oh, I'm going to meet my friend Pia. She just interviewed at Zara.” And she said that to the head. She said that to Raissa Gerona, the CMO of Revolve. And she was like, “We never thought Pia would leave Reformation. We want to work with her.” And so when she landed, she was like, “Raissa wants to meet you.” And I was like, oh, weird. That's a funny random thing to happen when I just got off the job interview. Then I got both offers and had to pick one. I always just thought being the creative director of my brand, would benefit me in a bigger way. Even though Zara, I know is incredible. And everyone who works there is so great. But it's a very specific thing. It's a small town in the middle of Spain. And then I was nervous about being away from my family again. Then we launched LPA, and that was seven years ago.

    Elizabeth Stein 25:15
    Wow. That's incredible. And now looking back, I'm sure you're so happy that you went that direction, being a creative director, and having that decision to be able to make you on your own must be amazing.

    Pia Baroncini 25:29
    Yeah, clearly for some reason, I was always supposed to be in this house and buy this house for my mom and keep this house in our family. And I always felt a weird, not normal pull towards that. There would be times when my parents were like, “Oh, we should sell the house.” And it would hit me so hard. But I was also like, logistically, it'd be great for them. They should sell this house and get cash. And like live in a condo that's not so high maintenance. But my dad also was like, “This is my house.” So there's just something. I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be right now.

    Elizabeth Stein 26:07
    So as LPA has evolved, and been on Revolve, I'm curious about the back side of things, because, for us, we do our consumer research in the way that we do. But I'd imagine being able to use Revolve as the search engine where you see what people are looking for, and things like that. How much does that influence your creativity and design? And how much of your creative design is just coming from elsewhere?

    Pia Baroncini 26:33
    It used to be mostly that but you fuck yourself over. Because you're not creating tons of newness and you're not being a leader. You are only designing based on data. A lot of people do that. And I get it. And we refer to best sellers all the time. But I think it's just really important. Like now we're all in the place as a team. Even Raissa and everyone are like, just design what you want to wear. It's more pressure. I have numbers to hit. So it's a big investment for them to have the brand. And we have a lot of amazing customers who have grown with us and been with us for so long. I think that's the hardest part about doing wholesale. I think a lot of people kind of fucked themselves. Nobody understands unless you're in fashion, how much the buyers are involved in design. Because they have pressure from the powers to get hit sell-through. So my husband deals with his brand. We stopped doing wholesale. We used to sell at Saks, we had great wholesalers. We would show them the collection and they’d be like, “Yeah, but we want that in blue.” And then I would just be like now I'm trying to change MOQs and bringing a blue in and the delivery would be late because they were trying to like design our collections. Which I understand, but it's definitely what we want to wear, which is great.

    Elizabeth Stein 28:14
    Two questions. One, how many collections do make in a year? How often are you designing? And then secondly, where do you draw most of your inspiration and design aesthetic from?

    Pia Baroncini 28:26
    For many years up until the last two, we did 60 SKUs a month.

    Elizabeth Stein 28:35
    Holy. Wow. That's crazy.

    Pia Baroncini 28:39
    It’s so funny. Because people will be like, oh, that influencer girl, and I'm like, I work so much. It's such a dismissal… do billions of dollars in this industry. But we would design like 60 a month. Now we switched it to essentially quarterly but we still put little drops in. My last drop was last month. And then I have my holiday drop. Then I did like a little bit of resort collection for January. Then we have another one in March. So, it's supposed to be quarterly but we kinda like…

    Elizabeth Stein 29:17
    And how many pieces are in each of those quarters?

    Pia Baroncini 29:20
    This holiday one is big. In May, we designed 60 SKUs for that drop. That's one of our biggest moments of the year. It used to be designed a lot, try to sell as much of it as possible. But now, it's really about that full-price depth and designing each thing that we know we can sell out of. And it was a little slumpy after COVID Because I didn't even have my team. During COVID, so many people got laid off. My one designer was like, “I can't design from home. I'm out of here. I'm gonna move in with my parents.” He had like a whole Saturn Return. He broke up with his boyfriend. He's very creative. I think he just was losing his mind being home alone with the pressure of selling. And he was very true to his heart and was like, “This just doesn't feel good anymore.” We're still talking all the time, but it was a good thing for him. So I was like, a month out from giving birth. The guy who was doing my social had gotten laid off at the time when he was doing such a good job. The ball just fucking dropped hard. And now I have a team again that is incredible. And LPA is better than it's been in a long time. Things are selling out and getting the selling reports every week, and we see buying, reordering things, and recutting stuff. And it's a really good feeling.

    Elizabeth Stein 30:59
    What's most popular right now trend-wise? What do you think?

    Pia Baroncini 31:02
    Our dresses always do well. It's funny. A coat that we sold out of last year is back up and sold out right away where we colored it. People were dying for that. Our sweaters are doing well. We made this beautiful strapless Gianna dress. It's like a beautiful strapless brown dress. I remember fitting it in the office. It had halter straps. I was like, that looks too heavy. We took them off. And they were like, I don't know we have never really sold a drop waist strapless poufy dress like that before. And I was like, this is what I want to wear. I don't give a shit. And it's like that dress performing the best on social. It was sold out twice already.

    Elizabeth Stein 31:56
    So the brand is very much your style aesthetic, it sounds like.

    Pia Baroncini 32:01
    Yeah. I think people's biggest mistakes, I was talking about this because we're about to raise money for Baroncini. And I was talking about it with somebody who can help me

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