Creative fashion Erin Feniger May she is painting her way to success through one pair of jeans at a time. In 2013 the Creative Director and Founder of Rialto Jean Project got the idea of painting denim jeans by observing other artists in their studios and further realized his brand from his experience in Venice Beach. After opening shop windows in New York City and Los Angeles, she returned to Toledo to further expand her brand and return to her hometown to be closer to the family. According to Erin, that’s why Toledo inspired her activities and her personal goals.
Describe yourself in one sentence: I am extremely motivated and focused, but with a very open heart.
What is a personal goal or purpose in your life: I have been desperate to have a family and in two months I will have a baby. It was a long journey to get here.
The best thing about Toledo: Many people forget the unique experience we all have every day to visit the Toledo Museum of Art. I’m not sure people understand the enormity of what we have on hand.
Local art that inspires me: Everyday local art, from the art museum to street graffiti. It’s all inspiring.
Favorite local spot: Georgio and Tolhouse.
Favorite local icon or stylist: Darryl Brown.
One thing I would like to change about Toledo: I wish there was more socially to do. I don’t think there are many places in Toledo that create an engaging social atmosphere, like the larger cities did.
What people don’t know about me is: I don’t like to shop with anyone else, I like to shop alone. I like to move at my own pace.
I feel better when: I am collaborating with my team.
What keeps me motivated: My love of fashion keeps me motivated, my team and I expose myself to new people and art. If I consistently do those things, I am motivated.
What is the process for drawing and painting each pair of jeans?
The process is different for each pair of jeans. Our Splatter Studio collection is inspired by different palettes, seasons and moods, and this is the internal design process of each pair of jeans. The external process is to see each fashion trend, look forward to next season and look at the themes, palettes and flowers with my team of artists.
How did you come up with the idea of using paint on jeans?
At the time I was living in Venice Beach, California which is a community of many different artists. And I’d see a specific group of girls walking around wearing these old baggy, paint-filled vintage jeans. I was very inspired by the overall aesthetic of their look.
I knew that if anyone could recreate the authentic look of an artist in their studio, people would be drawn to buying those jeans. At that moment I reached out to artist friends to observe them in their studio and see the process of how they were painting, drying the brushes from the canvas to the pants to maintain the authenticity of the look.
What made you decide to open a shop window in Toledo?
We had window displays in Los Angeles and New York. I was living in New York until three years ago. My husband and I came back here to start a family, but we also saw the opportunity to get more space, produce our own product and have a showcase at the same time. He also took me home, close to the family.
What is your goal for the Rialto Jean Project?
We have many, but our main focus is to keep growing as fashion grows and expand our demographic of who we target.
What is an inspiring quote you would like to mention for fellow artists: “We earn a living with what we get, we earn a living with what we give.” – Winston Churchill.
Check out the Rialto Jean project on their website here or stop by their shop located on N. Summit St. near the center of Toledo.