Stalking Justin Bieber isn’t a typical business plan for startup clothing lines, but for Local Heroes designers Karolina Slota and Areta Szpura, that approach proved to be a game changing success. After hunting down Bieber’s address on Google Maps, the two Warsaw natives sent him a t-shirt and sweatshirt with “Doing Real Stuff Sucks” printed across the front of both. The possibility of him actually receiving the package was unlikely, but within a few weeks, paparazzi photos of Bieber wearing the design emerged online and immediately went viral. “[Karolina and I] were on the news back home because it was the first time someone that big wore clothing made by a Polish designer,” Szpura said. “Suddenly, without any idea how to sew, we became designers.”
Local Heroes has since grown into an international brand inspired by Los Angeles and the duo’s obsession with Internet culture. Their tongue-in-cheek designs have built a following from celebrities like Cara Delevingne, Rihanna, Rita Ora and Selena Gomez. We had the chance to talk to Szpura about life in Poland, running her own business and hanging out on Rihanna’s private beach.
Tell us about life in Warsaw, Poland. How has your hometown affected Local Heroes?
I love Warsaw, but it’s only lovable in the summer—the rest of the year is very gloomy and cold. You spend way too much time indoors in front of a computer and living life online. Karolina and I lived on Tumblr, which is why it feels so awesome to be in L.A. right now—I feel like I’m literally living in Tumblr. There was not much to do in Poland because of the weather, so it was easy for us to work 24/7 and get serious about [Local Heroes] from the beginning. Having no school background for what we’ve started doing, we had no rules or limits. That’s why we dreamed big.
What is the collaborative process like between you and Karolina?
It’s not easy doing business with your best friend. I probably wouldn’t do it again if I could choose, but we had no other option than to learn how to work together. At the same time, I know we wouldn’t accomplish anything without the other half—we’re like yin and yang. Karolina is the down to earth one, taking care of the business side, paper work and manufacturing. I’m the one with my head in the clouds, being creative, coming up with crazy ideas and trying to conquer the world. Since we’ve known each other for so long, I know I can trust her with everything and vice versa. Most of the time we don’t even have to speak to know what the other is thinking.
How has Internet culture inspired your designs?
We spend so much time on Tumblr that we’ve naturally began to dress like the people we see online, too. Before we started [Local Heroes], we couldn’t find anything like that in the street shops, so we just decided to create them on our own.
What’s the biggest advantage of running your own business?
Being your own boss and being able to make the most of every day, following your dreams. It has a lot of flaws, too. We’re responsible for making all the decisions. The job isn’t nine-to-five, it’s more like from when we wake up to when we go back to sleep. Sometimes I wish I had someone that could take my hand and help lead me through the business world’s minefield. Last year I went to school for fashion management, but realized that after two years of working, I knew more than some of my professors, so I ended up dropping out. We learn so much everyday not because we have a test on Friday, but because we need to. The school of life is the hardest way [to learn], but it’s also the best.
Which celebrity do you dream of dressing in Local Heroes?
I’m the biggest Hannah Montana fan, so I’ve been trying to get Miley Cyrus to wear [Local Heroes] for the past three years. We sent her a package once, but she must have been on tour back then because I saw her sisters wearing it. But, I’m not giving up.
What’s it like to spend a day with Rihanna on her private beach?
Insane—It was one of the best days of my life. We didn’t think we would even see her, so laying on the beach and smoking cigarettes wasn’t on our agenda. [I was] trying to relax and enjoy the moment while being star struck. What can you talk about with Rihanna while still trying to act casual? The weather? I was surprised by how much she knew about Karolina and me. She talked to us about all her [Local Heroes clothing], like the bad hair day beanie that she said she wears five days a week.
Your line screams, “Los Angeles.” How has the west coast influenced your designs?
We’ve made clothing [for Local Heroes] that we would wear if we lived in L.A. with palm tree wallpaper on our apartment walls—fake it ‘til you make it. What we love about the west coast, besides the weather, is the ability to wear whatever you want and not be judged. You can get crazy, be creative and have fun with your everyday look.
Do you have a life motto?
You only live once, so follow your dreams, do what you love and never say never because doing real stuff sucks.