Celebrities from Kanye West to Jessica Alba have been spotted wearing threads from the Rialto Jean Project. Vogue featured the company’s first collection immediately after it launched.
Now, the founder of the RJP fashion brand has opened her flagship store in downtown Toledo, returning home after establishing successful storefronts in the style Meccas of L.A. and New York.
Venice Beach vibes
Erin Feniger Maggio graduated from Ottawa Hills High School, not thinking that she was destined to become a clothing designer, but always drawn toward philanthropy. “I’ve always loved clothes and fashion, but that wasn’t the path I was setting,” she said. She owned a company for 12 years prior to opening RJP that specialized in event development for non-profits. Her life changed when she developed an autoimmune disease, a chronic pain disorder that caused her to reevaluate her path.
“I decided that I needed to close that chapter because planning events was extremely taxing on my body,” Maggio said. Taking time to consider her next move, she was inspired by something that had always been a subtle but ever-present passion in her life—vintage denim.
Maggio explains, “I was living in California in Venice and was inspired by actual artists who walked around in their boyfriend’s jeans with paint all over them. I just started to think if somebody could authentically create that look, people would by them.” Maggio set to work crafting her design by watching an artist friend wipe paint brushes on her jeans. She turned her garage into a studio and started perfecting the splattered paint look that lead to her first collection.
The jeans have evolved since the first collection came out in August of 2013, with floral embroidery, painted flowers, and other trends depending on hot trends of each fashion season and the business took off more quickly than Maggio had expected.
High-End fashion with a heart
“What I thought was going to be this beachy, small, boutique brand ended up turning into a very high-end brand,” she said. RJP designs can now be found in 45 locations worldwide. With her non-profit roots, Maggio also makes sure that a portion of quarterly sales go to organizations to help human trafficking survivors, people fighting breast cancer, and children’s hospitals. “Our statement for the Rialto Jean Project is ‘Denim doing good,’ which I feel like sums up who we are,” Maggio said.
Having made her marks in the United States’ fashion capitals, Maggio knew that she and her husband were ready to move to Toledo to open her flagship store, start a family, and be close to her parents. She also wants to give back to her community and is excited to be a part of downtown’s revitalization.
“I’m a believer that you have to bring these kinds of businesses in for a city to grow,” Maggio said, adding that the items Toledoans gravitate toward in the downtown storefront will have an impact on deciding what to present to buyers. All of the RPJ designs are now produced here in Toledo. Maggio said, “I’m excited to bring my company, new jobs, and a whole new experience here.”