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Erin Feniger: Founder and Creative Director

Last year in New York, I had the privilege of meeting Erin Feniger at a January Labs event. I quickly learned about her innovative and profound work with Rialto Jean Project. As a founder and creative director she leads the project that seeks to benefit children through art, with proceeds going to support innovative art therapy programs at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and New York. I was honored to continue a conversation with her and below you can see how I got to know her a little bit more beyond her work.

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January Labs: What are your must-have beauty products?

Erin Feniger: Go and Glow Power Peel Exfoliant. The perfect quick fix to feel and look refreshed when my schedule is non stop!

JL: Do you have any daily rituals that you can’t live without?

EF: Funny enough I think the one daily ritual I never miss is at night when I put Nivea head to toe! [Laughs] It’s really funny because my sister-in-law finds this to be funny and fascinating as I am obsessed with products and the drug store lotion is what I cant live without

JL: How would you describe your style?

EF: Classic … I love a white t-shirt, a great pair of jeans, my leather jacket and my accessories are everything. Shoes can make or break an outfit, a collection of purses and incredible pieces of jewelry

JL: What lead you to start Rialto Jean Project?

EF: Two years ago, I got sick with an autoimmune disease, which is a chronic pain disorder. I had made the decision to close the doors to my event company that helped non-profits raise their annual revenue to focus on my health.

I was living in Venice Beach, California, and I would go to Gjelina for my morning coffee and I would see this girl—think Erin Wasson—who literally got out of the water from surfing and threw on her paint clothes, because she’s an artist. She was wearing her boyfriend’s old Levi’s that had paint everywhere, a white tank top, no bra, and her hair had that perfect beachy wave. Being that I have been collecting vintage Levis for years and was denim obsessed since a little girl I was focused on the jeans and how cool they looked with the paint. I knew if someone made those jeans to look authentic to a painter in her studio wiping the brushes on her pants … people would buy them.

Next thing you knew I was buying dozens of vintage Levis from good will and bought every kind of paint at the art store and I spent several weeks in a studio with an artist friend watching the process from canvas to pant. This was important as the last time I has really done art was in the 3rd grade.

Before I knew it I had turned my garage into an art studio, my laundry room into a washhouse and had a pop up store on Abbot Kinney.

JL: What has been the most exciting part of career so far?

EF: To watch how people all over the world have fallen in love with the jeans!

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JL: Who has been most inspirational to you in your work and life?

EF: Without a doubt my father; he taught me to never give up and that there will always be hurdles but they will make you smarter and stronger. He also taught me that hard work pays off, how important it was to network (truly meet different people every where you go and always follow up with a call or note afterwards) and most importantly to always treat people kind and fair!

JL: Tell us about your incredible charity work …

EF: Rialto Jean Project benefits children through art; with proceeds going to support innovative art therapy programs at Children’s Hospital’s. Proceeds from each pair of Rialto Jean Project denim benefits Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and New York Presbyterian Child Life Services. RJP supports their longstanding work incorporating art therapy to aid the healing process and benefit the lives of patients being treated at the hospital.

Art therapy helps young patients find a sense of hope, self-esteem, autonomy and competence in their healing process The Rialto Jean Project charitable platform ‘Denim Doing Good’ exemplifies our work and dedication to this cause

JL: What advice would you give to other women you wish someone would have told you?

EF: Working hard is a key ingredient but stepping back and thinking smart is the real answer. So think that just cause you work hard your going to be successful, taking breaks and thinking through things is the real answer.

Photo by: Pieter Henket