Aly Barohn has a softness to her voice, to her movements, even to the lay of her dark hair around her equally dark eyes. But when she laughs, a brightness sidles in, coloring the otherwise lovely neutrals that seem to denote her existence. Her laugh is bold and unapologetic, self-assured, boisterous.
She has lived in many different places. The Omaha native studied fashion and costume design in Chicago, worked in film in New York City, lived in seclusion in a cabin in Arkansas and now runs an online and semi-mobile vintage shop, Vaux Vintage, where she makes embroidered textile art from her dreamy and eclectic home in North Denver. While her landscape has not remained constant, her many moves have been made with her friend Lou Tillery at her side.
The two met in college, where they began to work as a costume design team within the film department at their college.
“We were kind of a partnership. We were a costume design team. We sold ourselves that way, and through working together we got so close,” she says.
Aly was drawn to costume design and pushed away from fashion design throughout her time in college. She became disenchanted with the focus on trends and making clothes simply so that people would buy them. She wanted to make wearable art.
“We made sexy clothes in school because that’s what sells,” she said. “Maybe that was really what turned me off from fashion. I’m just now thinking maybe it was, subconsciously. But I don’t wear that type of clothing and I just kind of kind of want to dress how I want to dress and I don’t feel like I need to show off my curves or my body all the time. Sometime I want to and sometimes I don’t.”
She wanted to make unique clothing, and designing costumes for film allowed her to do that. People began to trust she and Lou’s partnership and gave them more creative freedom.
But Aly found the lifestyle of film and living in New York exhausting. She and Lou simultaneously realized they wanted to move out of New York and live in seclusion for a period of time to regroup.
“I wanted to do art but I just honestly couldn’t find the time, because you’re influenced to be out all of the time,” she says. “I just realized I needed to get out of there to find myself again because I had lost it there. I completely lost it.”
The two scoured Craigslist for a temporary and affordable home, and ended up renting a family’s summer home in rural Arkansas for the winter. They supported themselves by managing an online vintage shop.
“I just kind of like devoted every day and I had a schedule where I did art for part of the day,” she says. “I worked on the shop for part of the day. We cooked all of our meals, we never went out, we exercised and just kind of felt good.”
She credits her symbiotic relationship with Lou for giving her the courage to up and move to Arkansas.
“We go out to brunch, and by the end of brunch we have dreams for the future,” she says. “It’s easier to do that when you have someone to make you feel stronger and more supported. We would not have done it if we were alone. That would have been too hard.”
After a therapeutic and self-realizing stint in Arkansas, the two friends found themselves in Denver, where Aly decided she wanted to manage the vintage shop full time and continue working on her fiber art. Though she thought Denver might be a temporary home, Aly says she and Lou have stayed partially as a result of the women they have met in Denver. She says she came here hoping to solidify her success and idea of success, but that the female bonds she encountered tied her here and inspired her to continuing creating art. She now has pieces in a number of galleries and was recently featured on online decor boutique Art & Article.
“I honestly think that’s one of the main reasons we ended up staying here,” she says. “We met so many women who were doing what they wanted. Living on their own, off of their own ambition and making art and just being badasses. I couldn’t even believe. In New York, I didn’t even meet women like this. I didn’t realize that’s what I needed.”
She has honed a routine in Denver and loves the control of owning her own business and creating her own schedule. She sometimes grapples with the traditionally feminine nature of many of her pastimes.
“All of my hobbies are typically feminine and maternal and domestic,” she says. “I love cooking, I love baking, I love sewing, I love embroidering, I love dyeing fabrics.
I wish there was something else, where I could be like look I’m a tomboy but I’m very much not.”
But Aly is intrigued by the legacy inherent in textile arts like embroidery and has stuck with it because she enjoys the delicacy and intimacy of working with her hands. Her artwork is a modern twist on a retro art from.
“I will teach my future children to do it, son or daughters,” she says.
Aly says she absolutely identifies as a feminist. Her definition and interaction with the identity is closely related to the time she spent living with Lou in Arkansas and the process of realizing her own agency as a woman.
“Being a woman who is ambitious and driven and strong and willing to go into the woods and live alone for a while and make her own way, and chop wood when you need a fire for warmth and cook all your own meals and survive, that is my stance on feminism and womanhood,” she says.
Sitting in Aly’s succulent adorned living room, I feel grateful that each of the women in the room has been fortunate enough to have a close female friendship who has acted as a catalyst for positive change and transformation of self. It goes to show that female mentorship can come in the form of a friend, someone who shares your aspirations and reminds you that dreams can evolve into reality. And if worse come to worse, at least you know they’ll be there to snuggle you when shit hits the fan.