La Ropa's Founders Were Once Homeless. Now Young Thug and Bella Hadid Rock Their Clothes.

You may have seen rappers rocking La Ropa's “Pussy Builds Strong Bones" shirts recently. Here's how the founders went from homeless to overnight success.

La Ropa founders Jimbo Williams and Aristotle Sanchez

Image via Lily Lauria, courtesy of La Ropa

La Ropa founders Jimbo Williams and Aristotle Sanchez

Jimbo Williams and Aristotle Sanchez were clicking around the Internet one afternoon when they saw something that blew their minds. 

It was on some defunct blog about bikers—just all kinds of vintage photographs of big guys on Harley-Davidsons wearing the gnarliest, most outlandish graphic tees imaginable. “Kiss Me and I’ll Fuck You.” “My Other Bike… Is Up My Nose!” That kind of thing. “Just a whole bunch of profane ’70s shit,” as Williams put it to me recently, remembering the moment of revelation. Then they came across a picture of a woman with a shirt bearing a very important message. It was important because it wasn’t just biker slang or an innuendo for Hell’s Angels. It was important because it spoke to their souls. It was a message from the universe.

The shirt said “Pussy Builds Strong Bones.” To Williams and Sanchez, it was like Moses bringing the word of God on stone tablets. “Once we saw that, it was like, Whoa. What the fuck is this?” Williams says. “This… this was ours. This was perfect.”

Pussy Builds Strong Bones. It means something like: the strength and divinity of the woman in a world that makes things harder on her than they have any right to be. Or something like: do not fuck with women, because not only can they take it, they can dish it back better than you, man. This was at the height of the #MeToo movement, and Williams and Sanchez, as they remember it, “couldn’t believe some of the shit we were hearing.” This was like a rejoinder to all that. “For us, woman is God,” Williams says. “We respect women more than anyone else in the world. So this was our way of saying, women, we respect you, we love you.”

La Ropa 'Pussy Builds Strong Bones' shirt

So they put it on a shirt. Or, anyway, they planned to put it on a shirt—at first they just mocked up a picture of what the shirt was going to look like and uploaded it online. They didn’t print a single one until they’d sold more than a hundred. You see, at the time Williams and Sanchez were technically homeless, living night-to-night at a seedy motel in Los Angeles, trying to scrape together a bit of cash each day to buy old clothes at thrift stores so they could revamp them and flip them online. It was a bit of ramshackle organization in those days, but the guys had big dreams. They imagined a future in which their clothing company, La Ropa, might take over the world.

That future is now. La Ropa is currently, without exaggeration, one of the most popular and happening streetwear brands not only in Los Angeles but in the United States of America. It has completely exploded, and is coveted by some of the most fashionable people anywhere—Andre 3000 is a fan, ASAP Rocky is a fan, Young Thug is a fan, the list is endless. Austin McBroom wore La Ropa at his fight against TikTok star Bryce Hall. Jake Paul wore La Ropa to his brother’s much-televised bout against Floyd Mayweather. A couple of weeks ago, Williams and Sanchez ran into Rihanna at Nobu. They gave her some La Ropa gear to wear. It’s not anyone who can get clothing into the hands of Rihanna. But that’s just the kind of influence these guys now share.

Williams, 28, and Sanchez, 22, got their start in Toronto, back in the halcyon days of 2015—“the post-ASAP Rocky era,” as Williams puts it. Williams was a business school drop out who aspired to be a fashion designer; he got kicked out of his parents house after he broke their washing machine dying clothes. The two of them had an underground arts collective called ACC Studio—a “creative council,” as they describe it now, based out of an apartment at Lansdowne and Dupont, which they say became a kind of “cultural hub” in the city, an intersection of fashion, music, fine art, and film that “had the city buzzing.”

“We want to make real experiences. Things are the same a lot of the time.”

Their work together caught the attention of a lot of influential people, including the writer Allyson Shiffman, who urged them to give up Toronto to try and make it big in New York. She even offered her apartment as a crash pad if they made the move, so in 2017, with a fuck-it-let’s-just-do-it attitude that’s typical of their thinking, Williams and Sanchez and their friends arrived at Shiffman’s apartment. The only problem was that it was a two-bedroom space with New York real estate. There was room for about four of them to sleep comfortably. They’d arrived with seven. “That meant three of us were homeless instantly,” Williams says. “That shit got sticky.”

La Ropa co-founder Jimbo Williams

Williams and Sanchez had a pretty good strategy for finding a place to sleep, though. It was, as they put it, “real New York shit.” They would go out at night, party like crazy, find a girl who was game for a good time, and convince her to let them sleep at her place—and ideally bring some friends along too. This went pretty smoothly until one night, when they were swiping through Tinder and met a girl named Adrien. Adrien, according to Williams and Sanchez, is “the coolest chick ever.” They got along with her so well, in fact, that Williams and Sanchez very quickly convinced Adrien to get a place with them in Bushwick, at the corner of Knickerbocker and Flushing. Of course, their first real home in New York was a lot more than a home. They painted it silver and transformed it, almost overnight, into a 24-hour storefront.

It was the perfect setup, as Williams and Sanchez could see. But things don’t always work out so well for Williams and Sanchez. You remember that summer there were all those wildfires in Los Angeles? Well, turns out Adrien’s parents live in Napa Valley, and the fires incinerated their family home. “Wow, that’s serious, that sucks,” Williams tells Adrien. “Tell your family they can come stay with us!” Adrien just laughs. No, no. The family is coming—they’re moving in, and Willaims and Sanchez are moving out.

“What does that mean?” Williams says. “We are homeless. Again.”

They had done New York. And they felt like they needed a change. “We had to do something crazy,” Sanchez says. “So we drove to L.A.” This time, Williams and Sanchez packed up the car and drove down to Los Angeles, where, as Williams says, they started to “just thug it out, doing the friggin’ motel thing.” They got a spot at the world famous Royal Pagoda, haven for drifters and vagabonds trying to start again in the city of dreams. “We just started creating, man. We had this idea, like, we were on the Great American Road Trip. It was beautiful.” 

What Williams and Sanchez would do is this: They’d wake up at the motel and design a new T-shirt, like the one that says Pussy Makes Good Bones. They’d walk from the motel (in Chinatown) all the way downtown to buy a screen of the design for fifty bucks—you just email one of these stores the design you want and they’ll burn it for you on the spot. They’d steal a bit of ink and grab a squeegee and buy a bulk pack of plain white tees from a wholesaler for a dollar a pop, then they’d bring all of it back to the motel and start slapping the designs on. Then they would head out into the streets and start selling the shirts to make enough to pay for another night at the motel.

All the while, of course, they were promoting the hell out of these designs all over their Instagram page. Williams insists they were one of the world’s first Instagram businesses—and at the time their designs were blowing up. “We’d go up to random women we’d see in the street that were beautiful to us, and we’d ask to take photos of them wearing our shirts,” Williams says. “I remember this one lawyer lady, she agreed to take the photo, but then she said, ‘You know, you guys will never make a million dollars off this, right?’ And I was like, ‘Oh really?’”

They are proving that woman wrong every single day. 

It all started with the original—with Pussy Makes Strong Bones. Williams and Sanchez had dropped off a bunch of the shirts with the guys at Grailed, the popular streetwear resale site. By coincidence, Playboi Carti happened to come through, and he must have liked the look of the tee, because soon enough a pic was floating around online of him rocking it. That’s all it took. Suddenly everyone wanted a Pussy Makes Strong Bones shirt. It even ruffled some feathers with the Grailed people, who, Williams says, were “threatening to sue” because Carti thought the whole thing was some kind of elaborate setup designed to sell shirts. “I was like, if you saw the money we were making here? Sue us.”

La Ropa’s limited-edition drops are selling out all the time, and their clothing is still commanding huge amounts of attention online. The popularity is only accelerating, and it’s not hard to imagine these guys rolling in the cash—and accolades—for a long time to come. But they’re not content to just rest on their laurels, either. Jimbo and Aristotle have huge plans for the future. As you can only expect if you talk to them for more than a few minutes, they’re restless to get going with the next thing. And the next thing. And the next. As rappers like to say on Instagram, big things coming soon from these two.

“We want to make real experiences. Things are the same a lot of the time. There’s room for really creative experiences that are fun and new and refreshing,” Sanchez says of their plans. It goes far beyond more T-shirts. “We want to open a store in Miami. We want to open a store in New York. We want our own crypto currency. We want to make some kind of documentary, something visual to encapsulate this,” Williams says enthusiastically. “You know how Michael Jackson had Neverland? We want La Ropa Land. For real.” 

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