Some craft clothes, others create empires. Adrienne Abella of Little Black Diamond wasn’t always in this world. Tired of the nine-to-five, this San Diego native turned her passion for fashion into a hit locally-grown business, and is now a top festival fashion mogul, after less than three years. Somewhere over the trippy rainbow and into the land of EDM babes and a booming festival scene, a top industry brand was born. Prismatic pasties, cheeky bodysuits, sequins and spandex are common to the Little Black Diamond repertoire, but many brands can boast the same offerings. What sets this gal and her LBD apart is the savvy way she keep creating, keeps improving, and never stops.
What is your background/location?
I graduated from Northwestern University with a partial fencing scholarship and a degree in journalism. PRINT journalism, as in newspapers. As in that thing only people over 60 still read. I knew papers were dying out before I finished my program, but hoped my strong writing and reporting fundamentals would translate into something…my friends and I were working on online reporting in our free time anyway, so I figured I’d be fine no matter what. The campus news site we founded is called North by Northwestern (should still be up there, have no idea who’s running it these days).
“I started working at a web agency in the Gaslamp as an intern and spent several years learning everything I could. And then I got depressed. I learned a lot! But working 9-5 (often times longer) on a shit salary just to make some rich white guy richer is NOT my destiny. One of my coworkers took me to my first festival, and I was hooked. The insane sense of community and consciousness fulfilled me. You can actually live life however YOU want to. There is no set path. It’s a lie. We are all free.”
What does a day in the life of LBD HQ look like?
“It depends on the day. On typical days we are grinding away at the warehouse. Other days we are out shooting. We had a shoot in Balboa Park recently and were amazed (and relieved) at how many Pokemon Go players were swarming the area. None of them cared about our scantily-clad models for once! There is more to life than the 9-5 [and] nowadays I work much longer than a 9-5, except it’s on something I actually care about. Something I created. The culture, fashion, and the interesting musical innovations popping up in dance music keep me coming back.”
How many hands are behind this operation?
“We have a group of young women who work full time for us, but the truth is, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of people who have contributed something, including a number of other local businesses. We’re 100% a part of the local economy.”
Some say you’re an OG of festival fashion – what makes LBD rate above the other brands out there?
“We do see our designs inspiring a ton of clothing being put out there in the festival scene (and even in the mainstream swimwear scene). We’ve had several brands straight up duplicate our designs … so I started designing things that were still exciting and inspiring, but more difficult to copy. We create new clothing and accessories at a faster pace, so our customers stay inspired. At the end of the day, we are OG because we care about making people HAPPY through our clothing. People don’t always realize this, but our clothing is not mass-produced in a sweatshop overseas. It’s ethically handmade, here in San Diego. Our workers are given fair pay. They create in a safe, healthy environment and construct our products with the highest quality. That’s something the bigger companies, who we are now up against, do not do. These giants can construct their product overseas and often do not treat their workers with compassion. Yeah, sometimes their products are a slightly lower price, but at what cost?”
Speaking of competition, it seems like the festival fashion industry has boomed recently. How do you stay at the top of the food chain?
“Never. Stop. Moving. Love your customers. Give them things they want.”
You mentioned certain silhouettes and designs have been inspired by things you’ve seen in your day to day. What decisions go into product creation / marketing from start to finish?
“We sketch out the idea, then make a prototype. Then we edit, until we are happy and everything fits impeccably. Then it goes to production.”
What about the quality – How do you choose materials?
“We check out fabric samples in person. We stress test it and see if it fucks up in the water or with ecstatic dancing. I personally test our products by wearing them and adventuring in them. Each iteration yields better results.”
Which pieces are you most proud of, and why?
“We have some amazing pieces coming out in the fall that I am pretty proud of. We’re learning more about creating a cohesive, well-executed and flawless concept.”
What advice do you have for the “wannabe wearer” who is a bit skeptical about flashing their skin?
“Since we’ve diversified our collection, not all of our stuff is super revealing. Instead we have the challenge of convincing larger or more curvy goddesses that our clothing is indeed for them too. My advice is to buy it and try it.”
Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
“I like to take things a step at a time … build the future instead of predict it.”
What inspires you?
“Naturally, anyone who has ever worn something we made inspires me to get up and work hard every single day. Nothing makes me happier than going to a festival and seeing someone having the best fucking time in our clothing!”
What advice do you have for young artists trying to make it?
“When it comes to finding that thing–that one thing in life you want to do: Don’t listen to anyone. Stop listening to your parents, your friends, your teachers. Listen to yourself. YOU are the only person who understands you well enough to know what you really want to be doing. Even people who care deeply about you–they want the best for you and love you. It would seem strange not to listen to them. But don’t listen to any of them. Just listen to yourself. Have the confidence to invest fully in your own obsessions.”
What is your spirit animal?