Aliens, the future and Pueblo pottery inspire Indigenous fashion designer

Aconav is an Indigenous women’s fashion line based out of Phoenix, Ariz. that creates bold and futuristic clothing inspired by the Acoma Pueblo and Navajo heritages of co-founders Loren and Valentina Aragon.
Loren Aragon, a fashion designer and artist, showcases his latest collection for his Indigenous-inspired clothing company, ACONAV. (Kyle Muzyka/CBC)

Originally published on March 10, 2019.

Aconav is an Indigenous women's fashion line based out of Phoenix, Ariz. that creates bold and futuristic clothing inspired by the Acoma Pueblo and Navajo heritages of co-founders Loren and Valentina Aragon. 

"We are a celebration of the strength and empowerment of women," said Loren Aragon.

For Aragon, his journey into fashion was a bit unusual — he was working as a mechanical engineer, but always felt drawn to a more creative career.

"Art was always in my background, my mother always encouraged me to try different things and explore creativity," he said.

Aconav's geometric designs are inspired by Acoma Pueblo pottery, says designer Loren Aragon. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)

"It wasn't until the first time I went to the Santa Fe Indian market which really struck the inspiration to be a part of that whole art community."

Aragon decided to go into fashion because he saw parallels between that type of design and mechanical engineering.

"A lot of times I'd take things apart so reverse engineer and figure things out … I soon realized that there was a lot of math involved," said Aragon.

Aragon is part of the growing trend of designers drawing inspiration from ideas of what the future looks like, and applying that to their clothing.

For Aragon, looking to the future also means drawing inspiration from the past, which for him means drawing inspiration from Acoma Pueblo pottery designs.

"I like to say that [the Acoma Pueblo] are kind of the fine china of the Pueblo pottery culture," said Aragon.

"Our pottery is a lot of geometric designs that are laid out in fine details, a lot of zigzags, a lot of the designs portrayed in our pottery are really representative of life itself."

A dress from Aconav's Xenomorph Hanu collection, which features a design of an Alien inspired by the movie franchise. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)

For the limited edition line, the Xenomorph Hanu Collection, Aragon looked far into the future, and was inspired by the Aliens movie franchise.

"I kind of studied the Alien culture a little bit further and I started to notice that there's a matrilineal system involved … in the movies, and [there's] a matrilineal system in our beliefs, I just tied the two ideas together," said Aragon.

He created a design of Alien from the film, that looks inspired by Acoma Pueblo pottery art.

For Aragon, looking to the future, and drawing inspiration from future narratives is important.

"I think it's starting to get us [Indigenous people] to think about what's in the future for us, you know, where are we going to be, what are we going to be doing 10, 20, 100 years from now?"

"I'm glad that [futurism] is really at the forefront, because that's what we try to push is to influence the younger generations to start thinking about what … the future is going to be."