Rows of white chairs lined a white catwalk at Livewire in Scottsdale ahead of the 2016 Emerging Designers Bootcamp on Thursday (June 9). Twelve designers will be learning how to get their brands off the ground.
Loren Aragon is one of two Native American designers in this year’s program. His brand is Aconav.
“The Aconav brand started basically as an art venture,” he said. “My wife and I collaborated our cultural names—the Pueblo of Acoma and the Navajo nation—to coin the name Aconav. And we started on our venture with greeting cards. Producing greeting cards with Native American design.”
Aragon is an ASU graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering but he says art has always been a part of his life. It started with his mother who is an art teacher. He learned his cultural heritage through her as well. He said the Acoma-Pueblo are mostly known for their pottery.
He was looking to express his cultural heritage in a different medium, however, beginning with jewelry, which he says kicked off his entry into the fashion world. He found, though, that he was disappointed by ready-made Southwestern fabrics.
“Fashion-wise, I was not a big fan of the Pueblo-inspired, Southwest-inspired, off the shelf fabrics that were being sold. I really wanted to make something that really identified with the Acoma-Pueblo itself,” he said.
Using his background in engineering and computer aided design (CAD) systems, he created his own fabrics which were turned into stunning works of fashionable art.
Aconav has walked in several fashion shows across the country, but when he saw Phoenix Fashion Week 2014, he was determined to get his collection on that stage. He connected with Brian Hill, the director of Phoenix Fashion Week and the Emerging Designers Bootcamp.
Aragon was instructed to apply to the boot camp. He made it in along with 11 over designers from around the world.
The Emerging Designers Bootcamp is a four-month long intense program.
“We’re teaching the business side of fashion,” Hill said. “That is completely untapped; it’s super needed; (otherwise) you’re just going to be a hobby designer that will go out of business sooner or later.”
Aragon and the other designers will meet every other Wednesday and learn how to do things like create a business plan, compute retail math, write press releases and more.
The program culminates with Phoenix Fashion Week in October at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale. They will be competing for Designer of the Year and a $10,000 prize made up of goods and services to help the winner launch their brand.