Aldona Barutowicz takes style hunting in Calgary to the next level
Sitting perched at a two-person table at deVille, located in Fashion Central, I waited for Aldona Barutowicz, street-style photographer, to arrive.
At 12:30 p.m., I looked up to see if she had strolled in yet. I wasn’t sure I would recognize her until I noticed a young woman wearing big black frames that sat perfectly on the bridge of her nose, vibrant red hair that was softly pulled back, purple tights and a fluorescent lipstick to tie it all together. That had to be her.
Confidently she walked over to my table and introduced herself.
A journalist and publicist for Alberta Theatre Projects, Barutowicz, 31, has so much passion for her work as a self-described style huntress and the media industry, evenreferring to herself as a workaholic. It was refreshing to hear a positive outlook on what the future holds for her and others pursuing similar career choices.
Grabbing two cups of coffee and some lunch, we jumped right into it. Her personality was easy to feed off of, making for a steady flow of conversation.
Barutowicz is originally from Poland but left at the age of seven. “My Canadian start was in Cowtown, which is exciting,” she said.
“There is something about Calgary that really feels like home to me, every time I leave I always seem to keep coming back.
“I left to Victoria for three years where I did lots of freelance work, walking the streets and taking photographs. I started to make a profile for myself and got bored, that’s when I came back,” she said.
The style huntress is also popularly known for her weekly Style YYC column in the online version of Swerve Magazine, as well as her monthly style installment for Downtown Calgary’s GETDOWN.ca blog, where she scours the downtown streets of Calgary to find people with an immpecable sense of style.
Street style: Getting noticed
Kimberly Van Dyck, 31, was recently photographed by Barutowicz back in January and featured in Swerve for her simple-yet-stunning sense of style.
Van Dyck is the academy director for Eveline Charles, and Barutowicz stumbled across her while walking the downtown core to scope out Calgary’s fashion elite.
“I was flattered that [Aldona] thought I was worthy of being photographed. For her to think I have great style was quite the compliment. I’m very humble about my style and just wear whatever I want,” Van Dyck said.
When asked to describe her style, Van Dyck went on to explain it as desconstruced; slightly masculine pieces with a touch of femininity.
“I don’t like anything too tight, or too girly,” she said. “Adding a great pump, or something more feminine to the [outfit] kind of cleans it up and polishes the look off.”
Some of Van Dyck’s fashion inspirations include Sienna Miller, Blake Lively and the Olsen twins.
“I love Aldona’s columns, because half the time I’m like, ‘Do I know this person?’” she laughed.
“We have some really amazing individuals in this city and it’s nice to see them showcased for having great style.
“It’s nice for someone like myself to say, ‘WOW, there are people out there, just random people on the street that are in love with fashion as much as I am.’ It’s reassuring, it gets me excited,” she gushed.
Calgary fashion critic out to make a statement
Aside from Barutowicz’s vivacious personality, she also expresses herself through her own unique allure. She discussed being expressive through her clothing, which sheinsisted isn’t a vanity thing. It’s about looking good and feeling good for you.
“Some people have a knack for fashion. Their personality is vibrating through their clothing. That’s what draws me in to them, and I’ll say, ‘I need to photograph you,’” Barutowicz said.
“I’m trying to bring my own flair to the city by taking photos of people that you may not notice or won’t see walking down the street.”
Sometimes being in the spotlight and drawing attention to bold outfits can be accompanied with negative feedback.
“It’s a way for me to express myself on the outside, it’s fun. I don’t like to be put in a box or to put any parameters on myself,” Barutowicz said.
“I get more negative than positive reactions.
“But, I don’t care.”
For the love of fashion
Inspiration comes in many forms, and for Barutowicz, it came from the confidence and strong personalities of the women in her family.
“We are all very individualistic and expressionistic through our fashion. My grandma would put on a full face of makeup before going to the corner store. It was the Polish way and it defined how you would be perceived,” she said.
“As a kid, I would always paint my nails and pose to show them off in photos, and I would always steal lipstick from my mom’s purse.
“I have gone through so many changes, my style is ever changing, which I love it makes it more fun for me,” she laughed.
Caralyn Macdonald, 37, is the marketing and communications manager for Downtown Calgary. She said that Aldona’s monthly article for GETDOWN.ca has added more depth to the blog, which is now attracting a wider following.
“I love Aldona’s columns, because half the time I’m like, ‘Do I know this person?’”
—Kimberly Van Dyck
The whole purpose of the blog is to document those who live, work and play in the downtown core, illustrating a great panache for whats happening on the streets of Calgary.
“Calgary is a young city,” Macdonald said. “We’ve got a lot of different styles downtown and different stores to accommodate individual fashion, there’s something for every taste.”
“We really want people’s personalities to come out through their clothing and that’s what we want to highlight [in the blog]. I love to people watch down on Stephen Avenue and just check out the different styles.”
Macdonald said that Lara Presber, a Calgary-based fashion designer, is one of her favourite designers because she loves how she incorporates her background of architecture into her pieces.
“Born and raised in Calgary, I definitely think we’re headed in the right direction in terms of fashion,” Macdonald expressed.
Calgary fashion: The evolution
As Van Dyck mentioned in our conversation, she points out that Calgary has a lot to offer in terms of fashion and in changing the opinion of the city as being seen as ‘country’ and ‘cowboy.’ There’s a lot of potential and Barutowicz is doing her part by putting Calgary’s fashion style on display.
Adoring street style is not only a hobby but also a profession for Barutowicz. It’s a way to incorporate her love for journalism, photography and fashion all into one.
“I’m really into street fashion and trying to carve out my name and destiny in style,” she said.
After lunch with Barutowicz, I walked across the street to catch my bus and briefly scanned my surroundings, eateries, high-end stores and unique boutiques covered the streets of downtown. That’s when I realized fashion really is on the rise here in Calgary.
Whether it’s businessmen and women in conservative-yet-tasteful suiting strolling the sidewalks to work or individuals who are more expressive through their style choices with an eye-catching pattern, it becomes apparent that having personal style and not being afraid to show it, is becoming more accepted. Therefore, with time it will only continue to flourish as the fashion community continues to grow.
So, if you ever notice a wildly-dressed redhead, eyeing you up on the street, take it as a compliment, she may be featuring you for your moment of fame as a Calgary trendsetter.