Photo by Daniel Johnson
Neil Bardon, founder and creator of Saint Rita Parlor, has always known he was a maker from a young age...and spending time with his grandmother became one of his favorite pastimes as a boy. The special relationship they garnered over his lifetime would become a way of life and business dedicated and designed around the memories he created with her. Each creation, whether it be eyewear, Neil's handsewn exquisite leather bags or the SRP signature parfum is a time capsule and nod to one of the most meaningful people in his life: Rita.
With notes of of rose and smoke, Saint Rita Parlor signature parfum found its way through the Finefolk doors this early fall. After an in-person visit from Neil, who grew up in St. Louis but now calls Los Angeles home, Leslie (and the rest of the staff) couldn't get enough of it!
Here's a little Q&A with Neil, where we flesh out the concept behind SRP and he explains the detailed, methodical and awe-inspiring process behind the line.
1. You have many talents: fragrance maker, leather worker, clothing & eyewear designer and more! Which came first and when did you know you wanted to become a creator?
Eyewear came first and is my staple, each of the other components and accoutrements lend rich context as well as content to the concept within Saint Rita Parlor. I knew from a very young age I was different in the sense that I was always creating from concept through execution which helps immensely with running every aspect of a brand/company.
2. Your signature parfum has notes of whiskey, rose and smoke. How did you decide on this profile and what intrigues you about unisex fragrances?
The signature fragrance is an elaboration and sentiment of a specific memory I was fortunate enough to share with my grandmother. The notes are reminiscent of her from my childhood and inspired by a few of the things she enjoyed. Her favorite drink was whiskey and water, paired with a hand-rolled cigarette, of which she would enjoy whilst tending to her rose garden. Whiskey, tobacco, and rose are the notes that make up my signature unisex parfum with a subtle smokiness and ever slightly sweet finish. Deciding on this wasn't difficult as my brand is 100% tied directly to her life and our relationship. Developing the fragrance took about 1.5 years as it needed to be perfect and match the nostalgic aroma I had envisioned. It was natural to make a unisex fragrance as well. Rita being my muse I treat everything in SRP as unisex. Also my fragrances that articulate a memory are rather complex which call for using essential (organic/natural) oils of which have an honest finish that easily perform as a unisex parfum.
3. The name Saint Rita Parlor is an homage to your grandmother. What was your relationship like with her and what characteristics about her translate with your brand?
I was extremely close with my grandmother, we just had a really special bond. Having her in my life for 23 years prior to her passing in 2010, I inherited a plethora of sentiment, knowledge, and heirlooms
from her that will stay with me forever. The entire brand is the story of my grandmother's life told through my design and visual language which results in limited one-off hand made artifacts that I share across the world with like minded individuals. Everything from the names of the eyewear (surnames of my grandparents prior to marriage), to the antique brass coin embedded behind the right temple of each pair of eyewear from my debut collection (used to trade coins with my grandmother), to the signature fragrance are just a fraction of the portion of the characteristics that live within SRP.
4. You single handedly batch, bottle and label each of your parfums. What is it like being your own boss but also, for the most part, the only person running a small business?
I intentionally do this for many reasons. First, being that, as a designer, I feel a severe lack of honesty and disconnect especially in the design/fashion realm and this is how I create an intimate bond between designer and consumer that I feel used to exist but do to the current climate (fast fashion/greed) we've seen a constant disregard for integrity, especially within concept design. Secondly, in order to maintain a slow organic, yet successful business this is how SRP stays an exclusive/limited brand that cannot produce in mass volume, hence allowing the brand to naturally find its way to the most coveted ateliers in the world. Being my own boss was also intentional as I have a very specific regiment in my design, building, and concept process. To answer this more directly, I wouldn't have it any other way as it constantly pushes me to ascend to my maximum capabilities and beyond, the business is only as good as I am and as I make it to be.
Photo by Daniel Johnson
5. Tell us about your showroom and workspace in LA, where you reside. Do you hope to expand the brick and mortar shop in the future?
The Saint Rita Parlor showroom and studio is also a by appointment only concept store, a distinctive luxury destination and intimate experience specializing in limited batch eyewear and accoutrements. As previously stated, 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. 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. With that said, I will open a brick and mortar shop in the future. The singular show will be run by myself and again will be an intimate experience into SRP as intended. 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 of interior design.
We can't wait to see what else Neil has up his sleeve and invite you to come in and sample this special small batch parfumerie while our supply of 5 ml bottles last!