Honest Craftsman

STL-bred designer Neil Bardons hands-on approach to fashion leaves fans begging for more.

 

WORKING FROM HIS LOFT studio space in Downtown LA’s art district, St. Louis native Neil Bardon is the man behind Saint Rita Parlor—the small company creating a big buzz. Founded on a desire to showcase honest fashion that has a story, SRP made its first mark on the scene in October 2013, when Bardon released a limited 1,200-piece collection of vintage-inspired eyewear, much to the delight of style connoisseurs across the country. Bardon’s passion for eyewear—and the story of Saint Rita—began organically. “Rita was my grandmother’s name and the collection is created around our shared story, combined with that of Saint Rita, the saint of the impossible,” explains Bardon, who left St. Louis after college to pursue his design dreams.

The concept-through-execution aesthetic is a major part of what makes SRP memorable. Each piece of eyewear is created by Bardon with a specific silhouette—and Rita—in mind. Brass coins created with the image of Rita’s high school photo are embedded on the inside right arm of each frame. Since she loved coffee, each pair of glasses is packaged in coffee-stained paper and stamped with a unique serial number, complete with a personal note from the designer to ensure authenticity. Each item of the collection is limited. “Once a collection sells out, it will never be made again,” Bardon says. “I treat each piece like art—rare and exclusive.”

His unorthodox approach to design continues this fall with the debut of his unisex clothing collection, Funeral of Ghosts. This time, Bardon introduces his grandfather, a war hero, into the SRP story. The collection, which Bardon describes as “Ivy League meets Wild West,” is crafted from vintage sustainable materials like canvas and cloth from a vintage military surplus supplier in East LA. Each piece is made to order, created with the same rarity and craftsmanship as his eyewear. “I would like to think of my runway debut as more of an installation and exhibit,” Bardon explains.

One of the more fascinating aspects of the brand is Bardon’s hands-on approach in all parts of the business, which is virtually unheard of in the competitive fashion industry. His previous experience with New York- and LA-based fashion companies left him disappointed with the lack of concept, integrity and authenticity that resulted in a disconnect with the consumer. For Bardon—who acts as lead designer, creative director, salesman and product developer—it’s all part of the deal.

It’s these very values of exclusivity and immaculate craftsmanship that make SRP stand out in the industry. Although he is constantly getting recruited for the trade-show circuit, Bardon is adamant about not following the expected path. “It’s not what my company is about,” he says. “I want to keep an intimate bond with my customers and honestly, I don’t buy into conformity.”

As if the responsibilities of building a budding brand aren’t enough, Bardon also dabbles in consulting, art direction, music video directing and producing and is the current creative director for LA’s up-and-coming “it” shop, Hammer & Spear. For more info, visit saintritaparlor.com.

 

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Photo by Jonathan Fambrough.

 

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