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At home with Neil Bardon, Founder & Creative Director of Saint Rita Parlor

01 We know that you have a pretty diverse background including having been signed by a record label at 16, time spent modeling, working as a photographer and of course all of the fashion, eyewear, furniture and fragrance lines that you’ve more recently introduced. In all of that, was there a ‘lightbulb moment’ that led to the creation of Saint Rita Parlor?

In 2008 I endured a near death experience in which my family, including grandmother Rita was at my side both during the accident and through recovery. She played an integral role in many aspects of my life, however during this particular period it evoked a conceptually transcendent notion that would manifest not only my perspective of life, but how forthright I would be with my ability to articulate visual language and direction through design.

02 Are there characteristics or qualities of Saint Rita Parlor ‘the brand’ that you would attribute to ‘Rita’, your maternal grandmother and namesake of SRP?

Saint Rita Parlor is seamlessly connected to my muse, Rita. Every entity of the brand has been carefully preserved and tells the story of her life through the means of the merits that she instilled in me. There are many direct correlations, for example The first cup of coffee I ever had was with Rita and she was known around St. Louis for her astonishing baking talent. I brought these memories into my package design and stain my debut collection packaging with coffee and bake in the oven to personalize and authenticate each parcel. Every measure of my brand has a profound relationship to specific facets that are directly akin to Rita. From collection conceptualization and product names, to material selection, onward.

03 Did growing up in Missouri influence your current ‘Florissant’ collection beyond the nod to your hometown of Florissant? How does your adopted home in Los Angeles figure into your design sensibilities?

Florissant, originally Fleurissant meaning "to bloom” in French, is home to both sides of my family. This is another instance of integrating an intentional sense of ancestral sentiment. Los Angeles is another important season in my life that has lead me to where I am today. It’s abundant in ambitious and earnest individuals as well as that of the contrary. It’s inspiring and disheartening, it’s important and insignificant. It’s where I choose to gather my information from at this point in time until I proclaim it’s time for another city, another season.

04 With everything you have going on, what does a ‘typical’ work day look like for you?

I’m a rather specific individual especially with my systematic schedule. The process of which each day transpires begins with an outline of daily affairs. Daily routine is an imperative component when conducting every aspect of a brand. It’s important to note that each individual segment of my day is designed with intent and executed with dexterity.

"When investing in an item of substantial concept, quality, and design the first thing as a designer I ask myself is whether or not it has the capability to stand the test of time. "

05 You’re in the process of opening a Saint Rita Parlor concept shop in Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles - as someone who's obviously very meticulous about every detail of your design work, what’s the experience that you’re hoping for visitors to takeaway with them?

The Saint Rita Parlor concept store is an distinctive luxury destination and intimate experience specializing in limited batch eyewear and accoutrements. My approach to the current fashion climate is to bring intimacy between designer and consumer, as they have a choice of who and what to surround themselves with and it’s important to me that transparency is disclosed. My intent with SRP is sincere. If it’s imperative to understand and cherish what you hold dear, such as an heirloom passed on to you from someone you admire. These are the ideals we live for. Presented with an unparalleled design palate, we create highly regarded products and experiences that surpass the mundane and that’s what I hope for visitors takeaway.

06 We’re pretty excited about your new fragrance collection - what can you tell us about it?

Its important to me and SRP to always challenge and expand our design and engineering capabilities. The newest conceptual product, our signature fragrance is an extension and elaboration of another memory I was fortunate enough to share with Rita. The notes are reminiscent of her from my childhood and inspired by a few of the things she enjoyed the most. Her favorite drink was whiskey and water, paired with a cigarette, all of which she would enjoy while tending her rose garden which she loved so much. Whiskey, tobacco, and rose are the notes that make up my signature unisex parfum with a subtle smokiness and ever slightly sweet finish. I hand make each small batch from rare organic oils in our showroom.

07 As we look around your home/studio, what are some of the essential pieces that you like to have around for inspiration, motivation, etc.

The interior aesthetic is a distinct collection of mid-century modern and industrial design pieces on a strict color palate. Focusing on the honesty of artifact is apparent when you look about the showroom. Everything you see throughout the parlor has it’s own importance and history reciprocating that of our own. I have numerous essential pieces that through strict research, patience, and knowledge provide an unprecedented sense of continuity by means interior design.

08 As fans of SRP, are there any contemporary designers or artists whose work you admire that we should also check out?

I admire anyone who is honest to concept and design and questions it at the same time. I stay away from letting any sort of bias or intentional influence into my process. There are many inspiring creatives of all sorts that I proudly call friends and have had the pleasure of working with. Here are a few I highly recommend checking out:

Gabe Stevenson | Grammy Nominated Musician: “Like” of PacDiv who just released his first solo record “Songs Made While High”, http://www.callmelike.com/

Dan Johnson | Photographer: https://danieljohnson.is/

Sequoia Ziff | Photographer: http://www.sequoiaziff.com/

Guy Clark | Photographer: http://guyclark.co.uk/

Mario Salangsang | Creative Director / Graphic Designer: http://www.mariosalangsang.com/

"My approach to the current fashion climate is to bring intimacy between designer and consumer, as they have a choice of who and what to surround themselves with and it’s important to me that transparency is disclosed."

09 With all of your product launches - you tend to produce very limited quantities of each piece. While the same can be said for other emerging brands who have limited production budgets - it seems as though SRP does so by design.

I’ve always known that I would make a limited number of my products. When investing in an item of substantial concept, quality, and design the first thing as a designer I ask my self is whether or not it has the capability to stand the test of time. Not everyone understands the value of owning a piece from an exclusive run. In modern time the masses are unaware and also content with mass consumption and that a rare or limited designer product doesn’t appeal to them. There is no modern day Eames or Milo Baughmann. With that is the reason behind why I decided to make a limited amount of my work. I much rather be a part of genius design verses making a product that is detrimental to design itself and also a burden in many ways to society.

10 What have been some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of launching and operating a design brand for you?

Saint Rita Parlor has been the most rewarding yet most challenging endeavor I’ve ever taken on and there is nothing I would change about it. Perhaps one of the most rewarding components has been creative freedom. Everything I design and create belongs to me, I live to create. At the age of 23 I moved to Los Angeles and decided I would “retire” at that point in time. Meaning I would never compromise what I find most sacred, my happiness. Many measure wealth in monetary form and value, but to me it’s far from it. I’m the wealthiest person I know due to the mere fact that I’m honest to myself and chose my own path knowing it would possibly be the most challenging endeavor I’ve yet to embark on. Wealth to me is confronting the common conformist ideals and proving the impossible possible, if not to everyone but myself. Understanding self value is my personal form of currency and the fact that I’m able to travel the world telling my story to complete strangers and experience the most diverse of cultures is the most rewarding aspects I could ever be so thankful for.

11 Whats next on the horizon for SRP?

With our sophomore collection, “The Florissant Collection” debuting early 2017 we’ll be focusing on sharing our story by expanding globally with retail partnerships. Along with the launch my signature fragrance I will hand make another made to order garment collection which will debut in FW17, I look forward to challenging myself with this project. This is a rather exciting time as I announce new collections every couple of years. After fashion week I’m headed to London, Stockholm, Tokyo, and Lisbon to grow Saint Rita Parlor.

Photography by: Daniel Johnson