If you could bundle pure dedication and enthusiasm for design into one person, designer Barbara Riordan would be it. Her brand, Pariah5K, translates that enthusiasm with just as much joy and passion. With a focus on fabrics and colors, her stand-out separates merge with the sensibility of a real midwesterner. Meeting Barbara in person in NYC, we got to hear about her travel friendly designs, sustainable fabric sourcing and affinity for retro prints.
How and why did you start designing?
I’ve always loved clothes and I have made my own clothes since I was six years old. I wanted clothing that was out of the ordinary and the only way to really get it was to make it myself. I’ve had many people approach me about what I was wearing and when they found out I made it they asked me if I had a store or sold any of my clothes. So, I thought that I’d really like to try my hand at designing!
What I think about fashion today?
It’s great that fashion is so flexible, that each person can really express themselves. No too long ago your skirt had to be a certain length. Now there’s mini, maxi, midi, knee length – it’s great. What makes me sad is how diluted fashion seems to be. It needs more personality. I see it in magazines but not in real life.
What is your fashion philosophy?
My fashion philosophy is to own your look. I think a lot of people are afraid of looking too different from the pack. They want to blend in. But there is a group of people out there who really don’t want to be chameleons and those are the people that I’m speaking to.
What do you do for inspiration?
I get inspired with each change of the season. I’m also looking forward to the upcoming textile shows. Just seeing the fabrics is inspiring.
What inspired your latest collection, Mod Squad?
For my most recent collection, I wanted to do something fresh and easy. If you have a black top or t-shirt it can be paired with one of these cool prints, you’re good to go. Not to mention, the fabric is super travel and wash friendly (ladies…:) ). The names and looks of the pieces were based off of characters from the 1970’s show of the same name.
What’s your biggest hurdle building a brand today?
The biggest hurdle seems to be awareness. It’s very difficult to get a boutique to pick up someone new. They stick with what they know. In a way, it’s easier to reach an audience with social media, but there is such heavy saturation.
Any tips and tricks for new designers?
My advice is to keep persevering. Think small, do a few things well. When I get discouraged, mainly by not getting picked up by a store, I just re-focus on what I do best and that’s create.
Get creative with Pariah5K in your closet.