By Raquel Hendrickson
A mechanical engineer from Maricopa is going high fashion.
Loren Aragon caught the eye of a fashion marketer with his unique designs at a Native American festival this summer. As a result he was invited to New York Fashion Week.
“It was excitement all around,” Aragon said. “Fashion Week is the ultimate goal, but I really, honestly, didn’t expect it.”
His designs are expected to be showcased Sept. 12 for PLITZS New York City Fashion Week. PLITZS touts that it democratizes fashion by giving emerging designers an affordable platform to reach merchandisers, the media and the public.
Fashion Week includes dozens of platforms, with several venues hosting many designers and models. Designers usually earn an invitation by paying for it or winning a competition.
Aragon grew up in the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico. The son of a seamstress, he gravitated to art at a young age. He created illustrations in pencil and colored pencil.
Though he earned a degree in engineering at Arizona State University, he had a side business creating greeting cards for Christmas. He graduated in 2004 and moved to Rancho El Dorado in 2006.
His wife Valentina knew Loren was not just about his engineering career.
“Slowly, my wife encouraged my art and gave me tools to play with,” Aragon said.
About six years ago, he jumped back in. “I went back to my drawing. I got back into my own culture and starting working with pottery,” he said. “My wife encouraged me to try other media.”
He began incorporating wood burning, gourd art and sculpture with his ink drawings to expand his repertoire beyond wall hangings.
“Fashion is not really a big thing back home,” Aragon said, “but I thought we could do something high-end.”
His mother created clothes for dolls, then for herself and then for other people. Aragon creates designs for clothing and jewelry.
In clothing he works mostly with silks and his customized prints. He wants the prints to keep the value of the fabric and his Acoma culture. His jewelry is silver, copper, aluminum, gourd, plastics and wood.
His uncle, a silversmith, took him on as an apprentice until he could discover his own style.
“I thought, ‘Why can’t I represent my culture?’” he said. “I started small, doing our traditional stuff. Places like Walmart are always selling native-like things, but I wanted to represent Acoma. I had my own textiles printed for me. I wanted to get out of that traditional attire and start designing my own designs while keeping the traditional elements.”
Three years ago, he started marketing his designs.
While his engineering skills took him to the General Motors proving grounds, he began maturing as an artist and reaching back into his culture for modern ideas.
The combination of art and engineering “feeds both sides of my ambitions,” Aragon said. “Problem-solving plays a lot in the way I design and finding easier ways to make patterns.”
He was noticed at the Survival of the First Voices Festival in Kirtland, New Mexico, at the end of July. That is one of the purposes of the festival, to provide the opportunity for emerging talent to get noticed.
New York Fashion Week is another opportunity.
“I am excited for him and his accomplishment to represent our small town and his tribe,” Valentina Aragon said.
See some of Aragon’s work at Aconav.com.