Welcome to 10 Questions, a series that explores LA through the eyes of its coolest, most stylish citizens.
Angelenos can get everything from Chinese food to CBD pens dropped off at their doors with just a few swipes — but when it comes to fashionable on-demand retail therapy, the options have been few and far between. Enter CURIO, a stylish LA-based startup that allows us to shop locally at some our city's coolest boutiques with the convenience of the "Add to Cart" button and same-day delivery.
Founded in 2017 by marketing maven Lena Khouri and tech guru Christine Outram, the app officially launched in May and is currently available for iOS, with plans to launch on Android next spring. (Khouri and Outram also expect to expand to other cities in 2019, too.)
"We met at an ad agency and bonded over our shared passion to use business to make a positive impact in the world," says Khouri, who at the time was helping lead bicoastal marketing and advertising firm Deutsch's philanthropic arm, Good, which she co-founded. "Christine was running a hack-a-thon with the city of LA. That’s where we came together to come up with ideas to better the city and talked about our ambitions to use business to better the world."
Outram has history simplifying lives through tech. The MIT alum is also the award-winning product designer who brought us the Copenhagen Wheel, an electric bike she invented that nabbed Time magazine's Best Invention of 2014.
So how does the app work? Users can shop for womenswear, menswear, footwear, jewelry, accessories, home decor, and more from a selection of stores across the city, like Reservoir at Platform in Culver City, Galerie.LA and Banks Journal at Row DTLA, Atwater Village's Arora Boheme and Kin and Kind, Coldsmoke and Aust. in Venice, Espionage in West Hollywood, Brigitte & Stone in Brentwood, and Echo Park's Gingerly Witty, to name just a few. You can also buy directly from the brands themselves, including sister-founded clothing label Between Ten and colorful jewelry designer Tarina Tarantino.
Once you're in the app, you can shop by browsing available products or organize by everything by price or store location. While CURIO is tech-driven, shoppers can still get one-on-one customer service by chatting with the app's helpful shopgirl Audrey, who acts as everything from your personal stylist to delivery coordinator. Like with any other e-tailer, you can also save items to your wishlist; unlike other online shops, you can get your merch delivered in as little as within two hours. (If you still want that IRL experience, there's also the option to pick up your purchases in store.)
Now that you're well-acquainted with CURIO, allow us to better introduce you to its genius founders. We recently got to know Khouri and Outram over a round of quick-fire questions; from what it's like in a day in their shoes to their favorite LA spots and getaways, read on below — perhaps their answers will inspire your next million-dollar idea.
What's your earliest fashion or shopping memory?
Lena Khouri: When I was a kid, my mom and aunt took me and my two cousins over to a family friends house where we got completely dolled up with dresses, makeup, wigs, and heels that didn’t fit us and took a bunch of professional looking photos on their cameras. We still have those photos and it’s funny to look back at the first time I really remember dressing up. I was maybe 5 years old.
Christine Outram: Coordinating outfits with my best friend in grade school. We always wanted to wear the same thing on the same day. One of us would phone the other one in the morning: two rings and hang up meant let's wear a skirt. Three rings and we should wear pants.
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What's a typical day in the office look like for you?
LK & CO: We don’t have too many typical days. Some days we're in the office all day trying to get as much done without distractions and other days we're running around town for coffees, meetings, pitches, and events.
Every day is different depending on what projects, campaigns, events or fundraising activities we have going on. For the most part, Lena handles our boutique acquisition, business development, and marketing partnerships while Christine focuses on product design, development, data, and marketing strategies. But we work so closely together and start our day with what we need to get done that day and how we plan to accomplish those tasks.
You've got an entire day free: What does your fantasy itinerary look like?
LK: An entire day free? What a true dream! An itinerary for me would start with a hike somewhere with a nice city view. I'd then make my way to a breakfast spot likely where we can sit outside on a sunny day. I love exploring parts of the city I haven’t seen yet so ideally walking around discovering small shops and boutiques we can potentially partner with (I can't fully not work — I think I enjoy it too much).
For evening dining, my favorite types of places are ones where I can enjoy a long meal with close friends. I really like going to places with a unique ambiance and that can keep me there for at least two hours. I think the only way for me to not work at all would be if I traveled outside of the country and explored something completely new.
CO: It would definitely involve being outside without my laptop! We would pack our bikes in the car and head for breakfast at Snug Harbor — it’s the first American diner I was ever introduced to in the U.S. (I’m Australian) and the breakfast is on point. From there we would pick-up sandwiches and some Mexican Coke from Attari — it's a tiny Persian sandwich shop off of Westwood Boulevard. My favorites sandwiches are either the Kookoo Sabzi or the Kotlet. We'd pack them in our backpacks and head down to the beach to meet with other friends and ride from Santa Monica to Manhattan [Beach]. We’d picnic on the beach and wander around the tiny boutiques.
There might also be a post-lunch beer or glass of wine at one of the local bars. On an ideal day someone would pick us up and drive us back to LA so we have enough energy to go to dinner — Night+Market would be my pick.
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In your opinion, LA's most underrated store is:
LK: Street fashion and Fairfax are a big part of LA culture but I find the hidden street brands to be the most interesting. We did a two-part blog post on streetwear shops in the city that you need to visit and one of the stores on there was Bodega. It's actually hidden in plain sight. If you didn’t know about it you’d walk right past it and have no idea it’s there. It's a fun experience [at Row] DTLA. Definitely worth a visit.
CO: For me, it would be Shareen Vintage in DTLA. Shareen has a well-known wedding dress line, but this is her off-the-beaten-path warehouse. There’s a big sign on the door that says "no boys allowed" and when you enter, it's racks and racks of super-well curated vintage finds and Shareen’s one-off designs.
Your favorite place in LA to clear your head/recharge:
LK: I love going to rooftops or places with a wide view of the city. It reminds me how lucky I am to live in LA and inspires me to think of new ideas.
CO: If I’m feeling energetic I’ll head to Runyon Canyon or Temescal. It’s a great workout and the views from the top really strip any anxiety away. If I want something more low-key there’s a secret beach near Geoffrey's in Malibu. You can bring your dog and there’s hardly anyone there.
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CURIO delivers within two hours — so we're curious: what's your favorite local getaway that's worth a 2-hour drive?
LK & CO: Palm Springs for sure! It’s a nice getaway to relax and one of our good friends (Shiran) has an amazing Instagrammable house in Desert Hot Springs called ThePalmBaum — also known as Coachella Valley’s first feminist getaway. It’s an incredibly designed pink house with pink and green palm tree and flamingo wallpaper. Each room has its own vibe and you’ll find a pink gum ball machine, pink typewriter, pink chess set, pink floats, and other unique (usually pink) decorations. We're also not promoting this — we genuinely think she’s created a fun getaway house in the desert.
The invention you can't believe doesn't exist yet:
LK: A wireless Mac laptop charger.
CO: A transporter so I could see my family and visit Australia more easily.
The LA neighborhood that best encapsulates your style:
LK: West Hollywood.
Your favorite way to survive LA traffic?
LK: Super Soul Conversations! Oprah brings me back when I’m juggling the insanity of my work and personal life. I’ve told so many people about this podcast it’s truly the best and everyone should listen to it. I also love business podcasts like Masters of Scale, WorkParty, How I Built This, This Week in Startups, and No Limits. An audio book I really enjoyed was A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer. I’m one of the most curious people out there so it felt very relatable and fun for me to listen to. I'm currently listening to Becoming by Michelle Obama and love it so far. For music, I mostly like listening to rap and R&B but love so many different types of music.
CO: I love Masters of Scale, This American Life, and I was addicted to Serial. The Mornings Become Eclectic show on KCRW is also great for music discovery. Sometimes though I switch it all off — the car is where I can get some of my best thinking done and I like to use that time to strategize for the day. In the evenings it’s a great time to call my family and friends in Australia so I’ll jump on the phone with them.
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Besides CURIO, what are a few other apps you can't live without?
LK: I can’t live without Maps or Waze. Even though I’ve lived in LA for over five years I still use Maps to get around the city. Uber or Lyft are definitely convenient must-haves. I also can’t live without Spotify, Audible, or my Podcast app. Oh, and Instagram of course. Mostly for the memes. They make my day.
CO: The usuals: Spotify, Waze, Stitcher for podcasts, and Slack. But before we worked every weekend on CURIO I would also use 5 Everyday. It tells you five unique things that are happening in LA that day. It’s great when you’re feeling adventurous.
Learn more about Curio and download the app here.