For any fine artist, catharsis as a theme can run deep in many ways: in the process of their art-making, as the focus in the final product, or in both realms of their work. For Erin Feniger, the founder of The Rialto Jean Project, the importance of catharsis in art therapy and art as necessary to life has led her to create something that looks really, really good.
Tucked along the seaport in downtown Manhattan, Rialto's studio and RJP shop is inviting and true to the downtown sensibilities of the surrounding blocks that are as old as the city gets. I was late visiting the shop, having misread my google maps directions, but I was immediately welcomed and given a very cool story by Erin, who explained that she started RJP a year ago after she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. Part of her recovery process turned out to be painting (at the suggestion of an artist friend) and after a day dedicated to working on her pieces, she noticed her jeans were splattered with the excess paint she would cull off of her brushes between strokes- each mark unique, and a tribute to her recovery and newfound purpose. Anyone who paints for a living will be familiar with the transformation of their work clothes.
Now The Rialto Jean Company operates on both coasts, with an HQ in Venice, California, and Erin's studio/Shop here in the city. Erin sources all of her vintage Levis from flea markets, used clothing warehouses and other wholesale lots. She takes every single pair herself, and meticulously paints and treats each pair one-by-one. For every pair sold, $40 goes towards children's art therapy programs, and it's nearly impossible to find a pair that doesn't speak to you since Erin is careful to choose all different kinds of cuts and fits.
Since I've been working at Dusty Rose, the importance of repurposing and recreating something new has grown to be an important part of life for me. RJP really is one of the more interesting repurposed vintage brands I've had the pleasure to see behind-the-scenes, because I can tell that every pair is special, and everything put into them is put back out into the world through the reassurance that through our own creativity and love, we heal.