interview by DIME, Photos by Ari Jones
As we kick off a new year, DIME met up with the ever-inspirational Ari Jones of Project 4.30. Not only will this gal’s impressive line of bags motivate you to travel more in 2014, but she’s got a pretty unique story to boot. How many people do you know have moved back to Denton FROM Austin because our creative community is a better fit for them? Yeah, that’s what we thought.
First of all, what's the skinny behind your shop name?
Project 4.30 got its name because April 30th is the definitive start of my absolute favorite time of the year. Those first weeks of May are what keep me going through winters. That, and the shop started as a simple pet project in design school. A lot of my bags are ideal for road trips, music festivals, and good ol’ summer fun. 4.30 just seems to capture that so well for me.
Your unique collection of bags ranges from zipper pouches and passport wallets all the way to messengers and duffle bags. What's your favorite part about having such a range of products in your line?
The reason I have such a range of products is because everything was inspired by my creative friends and all their adventures, so the self-imposed challenge of designing around their lives is my favorite part of the breadth of my work. For a silly example, my guy loses his ID like children lose balloons, which is where my passport wallets got their start. The idea of a passport being used so frequently made me want to maximize the efficiency beyond what I’d seen in traditional passport wallets. Having a range of products helps me to address all of the design needs I see in everyday happenings.
Your eclectic material choices always have us intrigued. How do you go about searching out materials?
I started with this collection of vintage and store-bought fabric that I’d amassed over the years. Not too soon after I started focusing on bags, people would bring me fabrics saying that they thought of me as soon as they saw it. I love that in just following my gut while fabric hunting, I’ve been able to create a signature style. These days, I still mix repurposing and buying new fabrics, but with a few more sets of eyes on the prowl helping me find ‘em.
A little birdie told us you recently graduated with your BFA in Fashion Design from UNT. Of all the skills you developed, what made you choose to predominantly make and sell bags?
My first bags were my response to seeing friends travel all across Texas with their clothes in everything from plastic laundry hampers to used HEB bags. After I sold a few, I realized that Project 4.30 would be a great way for me to perfect my sewing, experiment with building a brand and practicing with design software. It was how I stayed on top of all the skills I was learning in a way that didn’t feel like homework.
What originally made you choose to major in fashion?
Art School was always the goal, but I couldn’t decide between photography and fashion for a while. In the end, the idea of being able to make De La Renta-esque dresses and sequin pants for homework won me over.
Any New Year's goals or resolutions for Project 4.30?
I always set goals in 3-4 month increments so for the first bit of 2014, Project 4.30 will have tons more options for both guys and gals and I’m in the planning stages of 4.30’s first official lookbook! I’ll also be looking for more retail stores throughout Texas to sell in. I’d love to have some bags back home in Austin.
Aside from the DIME Store, where can we shop your work?
How did you become involved with DIME?
While at UNT, I began looking for a community of makers like the one I missed in Austin. I saw pictures from the first two sales, which looked like a lot of fun so I applied for the next one back when it was Etsy Denton. I immediately felt closer to the Denton creative community so I stuck with DIME from then on. Getting to know all of these wonderful artists has been a hoot and a half- I even ditched plans to move to Austin to stay a bit longer.
Do you have any advice for aspiring Etsy sellers or other local makers?
For those that are debating whether or not to open a shop or selling at a marker: If you love making things and people are interested in them, start selling ‘em! It’s as simple as that. I know the greatness of tons of other Etsy shops sometimes intimidates us into thinking we’re not ready for the big leagues, but if you go back to their first few sales, you’ll see that everything is developed over time. You’ll find tons of support and a great community if you just take that first leap and get involved, whether it’s online or at local markets. From there you'll find all the resources you need to be great, too.