Ashley Arbon, the owner of Whiskey Wagon Merch, has been embracing Western-inspired fashion since her childhood days of going to the rodeo in her red Roper boots. Coupled with her love of rock ‘n roll, Arbon has curated a brand that is uniquely hers, offering shoppers an eclectic yet well-blended selection of vintage clothing.
Arbon entered the vintage reselling world back in 2014 as a way for her to sell pieces from her own closet she no longer had use for. In the years since Arbon has grown her brand significantly, now operating an online store and maintaining racks at Show Pony Vintage and Eclectic CO.
After leaving her office job in early 2020 with plans to begin selling in a storefront, the pandemic hit, leaving Arbon with few options. As a result, Arbon participated in over 100 outdoor vintage pop-ups throughout 2020, during which she formed connections with her customers and fellow resellers.
“It just created that community for me that I never had. I would not be where I am and still doing what I’m doing without the community I’ve found from having a shared love of vintage clothing. Many of them have become like family for me,” Arbon said.
Roper grew up in Utah, regularly thrifting and going to garage sales with her grandparents. She became interested in vintage fashion in middle school after looking through her grandparents’ photo albums from the 1940s.
“I was always fascinated with old things — the stories behind them, the people who owned them before me,” Arbon said.
Through Whiskey Wagon Merch, Arbon has been able to share her passion for vintage clothing with others, especially at vintage marketplaces.
“Selling online is cool, but selling in person and just seeing the excitement people have is irreplaceable. It’s beautiful to me to see these pieces that already have this unknown history are making new memories with new people and becoming part of someone’s life,” Arbon said.
Arbon’s brand is the culmination of her love for the Southwest, made up of pieces that mix eras of fashion in an eloquently intentional manner. She sources clothing for Whiskey Wagon Merch from thrift stores, estate sales, antique shops and her own closet, gravitating towards standout pieces that make a statement.
A 1970s prairie-style prom dress, which Arbon noted as her favorite piece she has ever found, is a perfect reflection of the brand’s overall aesthetic. Whiskey Wagon Merch undoubtedly pays homage to Colorado fashion, with patterns, colors and textures reminiscent of the Rocky Mountains and desert scapes.
“I’ve always had a love for the desert — the colors, the style, the history. Music, specifically old country and rock n’ roll, has also always been a huge part of my life. So all of that just kind of comes together in this weird fusion of rustic rebellion,” Arbon said.
Arbon’s proudest moment was earlier this year when she was able to showcase her brand on a large scale. For the runway of a local vintage fashion show, Arbon created 13 looks to represent Whiskey Wagon Merch, paying tribute to the ornate fashions of her favorite eras.
“My vision was to refresh the psychedelic 60s and pay homage to their original inspiration known as L’Art Nouveau from the late 1800s as it was a means to revive and express the vibrancy of city life. I’ve always been fascinated with the dynamic level of aesthetics in utility that they brought to life in each of these eras because everything was so ornate and beautiful,” Arbon said.
Preservation and slow-fashion practices are also a major driving force behind Whiskey Wagon Merch. Preventing textile waste in an effort to ensure a better environment for future generations is an unwavering motivation for Arbon.
“Not only do I have a passion for finding pieces and embracing their history, but I also love knowing that it isn’t contributing to the waste created by clothing. Vintage isn’t just a trend, it’s a lifestyle. It’s the key that leads people down that more sustainable path of self-expression. That’s what I love about it,” Arbon said.
Although Arbon is most focused on being present in her current endeavors with Whiskey Wagon Merch, her goals for the future of the brand all encompass a sentiment of increasing accessibility.
She noted her own experience with some vintage clothing not fitting her properly and hopes to begin sewing her own pieces that are inspired by vintage styles but are wearable for modern-day women of all body types.
Moreover, though she makes the majority of her sales from her in-person racks and events, Arbon plans to expand the brand’s online availability, putting more pieces for sale on Instagram and her online shop.
“We’re lucky in Denver. It’s becoming a hub for vintage shops. But I want to make [vintage] more available to people who don’t have that kind of access,” Arbon said.