Inspired by the White House’s impending election, designer Barbara Riordan invites the Indianapolis community to an election of her own, a fashion election deciding which of her latest creations will go to market.
On June 23, her brand Pariah’s workshop will open for commentary and critique from 4-9pm as guests are asked to vote for their favorites among her new pieces. The line will feature comic book screen prints, innovative textiles and plenty of neoprene dresses, but also a lesson in ethical fashion as all pieces are designed, printed and manufactured to ensure that every middleman is paid.
“People would be appalled nowadays if we had a certain demographic of people enslaved in our country picking cotton,” Riordan said. “In the 1800s, they said, ‘That’s our industry; we can’t have a business without it.’ Well we do have a business without it, you just have to pay more for it and it’s not that different.”
While Riordan said ethical fashion production may increase her price point, the story behind each of her brand’s dollar signs is most important.
“We’re making USA products without enslaving other people just so we can buy something for 20 bucks at Macy’s with a coupon,” she said. “You have to understand that this retails at $984 because I’m not enslaving someone who makes $20 a month; it’s made out of recycled content and it’s not fast fashion.”
Because this extra care is given to her pieces’ production, Riordan said the quality of each garment shines through.
First Riordan finds the fabric and uses unique prints and designs to ensure her ethical practices do not inhibit her brand’s style.
“When I see the fabric, that’s when I’m inspired,” she said. “If you look at the website where I buy the prints, some people are like, ‘That one would be great for my kid’s shower curtain’ and I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? That’s totally a trench coat.'”
Once Riordan completes a design, she sews the first sample herself to test it out in real time.
“I had this laser cut neoprene and I made a really cool skirt out of it but I noticed the back of it was wearing from scooting in and out of a car so I would make the back solid and the front laser cut,” she said. “I find things out when I wear them, something a male designer wouldn’t offer or a larger company wouldn’t offer.”
After approving the design, she then sends it to an American factory where the fabric is printed and sewn by legally paid and well-trained workers.
“I don’t have a problem with overseas markets, but am I going to get that thing that’s made in Bangladesh when I know they’re not treating those people right?” Riordan said. “I feel it’s more important to be responsible.”
When the final product finally goes to market, Riordan said customers can see how the quality of her brand differs from others.
“I have friends who say they remember when quality counted for something and it’s going away because companies’ costs are either going to go up, or they reduce the quality of their fabric or the quality of their design,” she said. “I can tell that, but people who don’t even sew anything can tell.”
Riordan said she hopes her Fashion Election is the chance for consumers to voice their opinions and demand the quality they deserve.
“Decide the future,” she said. “Is this how you want your clothing produced?”
Pariah’s fashion election will run 4-9 on June 23 at its workshop, 1111 E. 54th St. Suite 162. Visit Pariah’s website for more information.