Obituary: Carolyn Ajavananda, Designer at Maggie Barry


Carolyn Ajavananda, right, with Maggie Barry

Following a long illness, Carolyn Ajavananda, a designer at Maggie Barry Company, passed away on June 3 after succumbing to complications from a stroke. She was 55.

Sister to designer Maggie Barry, Ajavananda was an accomplished graphic artist and patternmaker, which allowed her to flourish as an integral member of the team at her older sister’s company, which encompasses a custom-clothing line and fashion-and-costume-design venture.

“She was a talented, strong woman and passionate about her work in fashion,” Barry said. “She worked with so many shows behind the scenes. You see people wearing clothes and don’t realize the time and work from the soldiers behind the glamour. She made a lot of people look fabulous, but she led a very simple life.”

Ajavananda was born on Jan. 6, 1964, in Rochester, N.Y., a twin to her sister Marilyn. The artist moved to Los Angeles nearly 30 years ago at the request of her older sister, Maggie, who offered her a job at her company. Ajavananda worked as a graphic artist, patternmaker and co-designer while also overseeing the production side of the Maggie Barry business.

Passionate about her work, Ajavananda’s career spanned fashion and costume design for different forms of media and entertainment, from television to music. She worked with performers including Cher, Van Halen and LMFAO. Referring to Ajavananda as “one of the best patternmakers in the industry,” Barry recalled the dedication her sister applied to her work—especially during sleepless nights and on tight deadlines—through a story involving a costume created for Lady Gaga.

“Carolyn stayed up all night gluing Lady Gaga’s jewels on her mermaid dress. You had to apply one pink, one blue, one pink, one blue and after 20 tubes of glue it becomes one blue, one blue, one pink, one blue,” she said. “She called it ‘wabu sabi,’ which in Japanese means ‘imperfections are beautiful.’ We lived by that.”

Ajavananda was preceded in death by her father, Vithya, and sister Melissa. In addition to her sisters Maggie and Marilyn, Ajavananda is survived by her mother, Carol, and additional siblings Kimberly, Rebecca and Vithya Jr.

She was a beloved aunt to Barry’s children, Lillie May and Maverick Mudge. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Ajavananda’s name to National Public Radio in honor of her patronage of the media outlet.