Meet the women from Arizona, North Dakota, and Colorado who are stitching new styles for the modern West.
Every year, C&I produces a comprehensive list of the best of the West: the best boutiques, jewelers, designers—you name it. This year, we focused solely on people and have rounded up the innovators, influencers, and fascinating figures who make up the many faces of the modern West. Here, the fashion visionaries walking the Western runway.
Loren and Valentina Aragon
Reimagining ancient Native designs as sophisticated couture
Owners and designers, ACONAV | Maricopa, Arizona
Loren and Valentina Aragon took their graphic-design talents from post-college side hustle to 2018 Couture Designer of the Year at Phoenix Fashion Week. Their fashion house, ACONAV, brings ancient Indigenous arts to the runway.
A portmanteau of Acoma, for Loren’s home pueblo, and Navajo, for Valentina’s tribal heritage, ACONAV makes everything from couture gowns to ready-to-wear accessories. Working out of the couple’s home in Maricopa, Arizona, CEO and designer Loren, 39, interprets traditional Acoma pottery motifs in luxe silks with a leather edge and metal highlights.
“Acoma is world-renowned for pottery, but I wanted to do something other than clay,” he says. “I wanted to see my work as wearable art. The designs come to life when worn.” It’s a family business, with Loren’s mother serving as head seamstress and helping with large collections and production and Valentina managing marketing and business operations.
The designs are aimed at empowering and celebrating the strength of women, and customers tend to be young professionals or entrepreneurial women in leadership roles. “The ACONAV woman is empowering, responsible, inspiring, and nurturing,” Loren says. “Her presence is one of importance. She is also a little mysterious. You know she has a story to tell.”
The pictured ACONAV dress will walk the red carpet at the 73rd Tony Awards in New York City on June 9. Find ACONAV’s ready-to-wear, accessories, and jewelry at markets including Santa Fe Indian Market, August 17 – 18 in Santa Fe; and the American Indian Arts Marketplace, November 9 – 10, at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles.
— Kimberley Field
Setting big trends in a small town
Owner of The Sparkling Spur | Mandaree, North Dakota
Tiffiany Johnson (Lower Brule Sioux/Mandan/Hidatsa) stands out as a queen-pin of Western fashion for several reasons, not least her keen sense of personal style. As founder and owner of The Sparkling Spur boutique — which she established in 2008 in Mandaree, North Dakota, on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation — Johnson has been able to accomplish something many others have tried and failed to do: build a business with a national audience from a remote rural destination.
From a hometown with a population of approximately 600, she’s made national waves with her unconventional style and fearless sensibility. She’s a trendsetter, not a follower, with a love for Western, Native American, and premier designer fashions, which she weaves seamlessly together into her own wardrobe, as well as her store.
“Edgy, above trendy, blow-you-away fabulous,” one customer writes in a Facebook review. But it’s not just Johnson’s one-of-a-kind style and inventory that draw people in and keep them coming back. She builds relationships with her Sparkling Spur shoppers. “My customers know that I want them to look their absolute best,” Johnson says. “I want them to feel fabulous.”
— Holly Henderson
Putting the West's best looks forward
Fashion designer, founder, LiveWire Style | Greeley, Colorado
A designer, business owner, and style icon of the contemporary West, 34-year-old Megan Holdren is a woman who knows the meaning of hard work. She also knows Western fashion. She’s dressed rodeo queens, styled runway shows, and worked with a handful of notable name brands — such as Greeley Hat Works, for which she revamped and relaunched the now-wildly successful Nine70 line in partnership with owner Trent Johnson in 2017.
In 2013, following her passion for creating pieces from conception to completion, Holdren introduced her own label, LiveWire Style, a Western couture collection that, thanks to immediate acclaim, she’s since grown to include personal styling and “rent the look” services. And after closing her first shop while pregnant with her third child, she’s now on the lookout for an ideal space to open a new brick-and-mortar boutique in her hometown of Greeley, Colorado.
Last year, she teamed up with former PBR champion Kody Lostroh to purchase and rebrand a modeling agency that caters to and represents the Western lifestyle. As part of their business, C.M. Modeling, the pair offer career and life coaching in everything from portfolio development to how to do your taxes. But that’s not to say Holdren has put designing on hold. Her latest venture: a bridal collection of rustic yet modern, elegant yet edgy gowns befitting a swanky ceremony out West.
— Holly Henderson
Photography: James Almanza/Courtesy ACONAV, Jodie B Photography/Courtesy Tiffiany Johnson, Caree Prince/Courtesy LiveWire Style
From the May/June 2019 issue.