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Raissa Gerona is no newbie to the fashion world. Back in 2008, the Valley-raised designer started a clothing line named after her grandmother, Brigid Cattis, producing one-of-a-kind pieces made entirely of vintage fabrics. After a promising launch, the company fell victim to the recession, and she swiftly ran out of money. As serendipity would have it, she eventually met Mitch Moseley, a menswear designer who was in a similar situation. "We both had success in the business and failed in our own funny way," Gerona explains. "So we decided to start a company together and, luckily, found funding." Lovers + Friends launched at the tail end of 2010.
As if running one of LA's most blogger-beloved fashion brands isn't enough (let's not forget that Beyonce moment, either), Gerona is also a Bar Method instructor and even owns a studio with two other trainers. "I teach classes six times a week and work a tremendous amount of hours for L+F, so this year I'm going to try to find the perfect balance," she adds. "It's hard because everything is fun; I'm so lucky that I have two jobs that I thoroughly enjoy."
We caught up with the rap-loving talent at the Lovers + Friends headquarters in DTLA to learn the story behind her brand's name, how she recruits new bloggers and what dream collaborator would cause her to lose sleep for "like, 30 days!"
When did you move into this studio?
"About a year and a half go. We used to share an office with THVM jeans on Palmetto when we were really tiny—it was just me, Mitch and an intern. When it was time to move into a bigger space, we knew that we wanted to stay in the Arts District, so we came here."
Lovers + Friends has really blown up in the last year. How does it feel?
"It's great! I first noticed that things started to get really crazy in October 2012. We started with three people and by January 2013 we had, like, 10 people working here—it all happened really fast. Today, there are 15 of us. We sell to 400 stores internationally, and our biggest accounts include Revolve, Shopbop, Neiman Marcus and Cusp. We bang out five collections a year with little capsules in between."
How do you and Mitch divide duties?
"Mitch runs all operations, so accounting, shipping and related logistics. In addition to designing, I also handle all of our sales. We have a showroom, but I monitor all the stores we sell to because I think it's really important to make sure you partner with all the right people to protect a brand. I'm super, super protective of the brand because it's such a huge part of my life. It's like my child!"
Where does your brand's name come from?
"When I decided to start looking for a name, I went to Astrology.com for inspiration. I was reading my horoscope—I'm a Cancer—and it said 'Watch out for friends and lovers.' I was, like, that's it! But I thought Lovers and Friends was catchier then Friends and Lovers, so we just did it. The name perfectly describes the brand because our girl is someone who really dresses for her mood. Lovers is more sexy and going out at night and Friends is more laid-back and going to brunch."
Who was the first LA blogger to support your brand?
"Our first girl was Julie Sarinana of Sincerely, Jules. We first met at a Phillip Lim party she was hosting. I was already a big fan of her blog, so I introduced myself to her. I don't know why, but we immediately hit it off and exchanged numbers right there—I didn't even tell her that I had a clothing line! We have this joke together: 'Down since day one.' Because when I met her, L+F probably had only 1,500 followers on Instagram and she was just so down and said, 'Dude, I love this stuff. You're super cool. Let's figure it out! I'll totally wear your clothes!' Of course, I wanted her to because I think she has really great style and embodies LA."
Now you have every big blogger wearing your stuff.
"With the help of our marketing manager Brea Warner, we've been able to organically develop great relationships with these girls—nothing feels forced. All the events that we do, we try to make them really intimate where I have one-on-one time with them. I'm super-supportive of bloggers. I don't think that people realize that bloggers have a really hard job. They grind just as hard as we do, so I have a huge amount of respect for them. When I'm scouting for new girls, the first question I ask myself is 'Who's cool?' It's kind of like dating; if I see a cool girl and like her vibe, I ask her out and try to spend time with her. One thing that we already have in common with these girls is that they have so much pride in living in LA, and so do we."
How does LA inspire the brand?
"First of all, I'm from the Valley. I was born in the Philippines but I moved here when I was seven years old. Mitch was born and raised in Huntington Beach. I'm never not going to be inspired by LA. I mean, look at the weather right now!"
What are your big goals for Lovers + Friends?
"My number one goal is for L+F to become the LA brand, similar to the recognition of BCBG, Guess and Juicy Couture. I want it to be a lifestyle brand, so it has everything a girl needs in her life. We're developing denim, which is a huge undertaking for us, but it's great because it's all being handmade locally. Maybe one day we can have a store or two or twenty, who knows! I just want to always be relevant."
Have you ever thought of venturing into menswear?
"Nope, I just want to do what we know. The menswear market is tiny, anyways. I mean, maybe we can do an offshoot because Mitch does menswear and he's amazing at it, but I'm just not there. There's so much I want to do with women's right now, like expanding on our knits, more jersey, outerwear, even shoes—I'm a huge shoe person. We're also exploring swimwear and may be collaborating with someone, so stay tuned!"
Who would be your dream collaborator?
"I'd love to collaborate with Saint Laurent, for three reasons: 1) Hedi Slimane lives in LA, 2) I'm a super-huge fan and 3) I can expose the L+F girl to something more edgy and take her out of her comfort zone. And obviously, if I could do something with Kate Moss, even if she wore any of my designs, I would die. If she did something with us like she did for Topshop, that would be amazing—I wouldn't be able to sleep for, like, 30 days!"
What type of songs do you jam to?
"I'm a huge hip hop and rap girl—it's all I listen to when I drive to work. I associate rap music with my life, not because I'm a gangster or anything, but because I can relate to the struggle; it's about dreaming big and making a life for yourself."
Finally, describe your perfect day in LA.
"After waking up, I'd go to Bar Method. I will then probably get a juice at Juice Served Here on Third, then I'll have brunch at Salt's Cure. I'll sit at the bar because I know the two chefs. Given that I'm a huge eater and hold nothing back, I will likely get something like a pork chop or steak. I'll also get a drink, because I do enjoy my beverages. Next, I'll go home and hop on my bike and do 'market research'—that's what I convince myself it is—at Satine and Zara. I'll also visit stores we sell to, like Polkadots & Moonbeams. I'll go to Reformation, too, because I love what [founder Yaya Aflalo] is doing there—they have such a strong hold on the market. Next, I'll slot in a facial at Kate Somerville and drop by Isabel Marant since it's next door. By the time I get home I'll be starving, so I'll go to dinner. I love Osteria Mozza. After chowing down on pasta and wine, I'll probably go to Teddy's at the Roosevelt!"
· Lovers + Friends [Official Site]
· Where Lovers + Friends' Founder Finds Vintage Accessories [Racked]
· Monica Rose's Very Sleek Lovers + Friends Collection is Here [Racked]
· LA's Sincerely, Jules Collabs with Lovers + Friends for Revolve [Racked]