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Native American designer’s dress walks red carpet at Tony Awards

Posted at 10:46 AM, Jun 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-14 13:46:06-04

PHOENIX The dress worn by Colleen Jennings-Roggensack to the 2019 Tony Awards on Saturday was designed by local Arizona Native American designer, Loren Aragon. 

We had the honor of dressing Colleen to go to the Tony’s which just happened this weekend. The dress was a hit from what we hear. People loved it they saw that there was definitely some kind of meaning behind it with the designs that were laid upon it.

Aragon is the founder of ACONAV, a couture fashion brand owned and operated by Native Americans here in Phoenix. The name comes from the cohesion of cultures between its founders Loren (Acoma Pueblo) and Valentina (Navajo) Aragon. The fashion company focuses on the respectful representation of Native American culture as well as the empowerment of women. 

We feel that through every culture and every society there is that empowerment that’s always there and  there’s always something above us in the women that they carry because they are the one’s that create life. In our culture that is what we celebrate and honor a lot.

Roggensack is the executive director at ASU Gammage as well as ASUs’ vice president for Cultural Affairs. She was Arizona’s only Tony Award voter. 

Aragon told Your Phoenix CW that Roggensack found an interest in his designs after seeing one of his dresses on AZ Red Book Magazine he designed for Disney. He created the unique piece for their American Adventure Gallery at Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida.

Her team reached out to me asking if they could have a custom piece or one of the pieces from my collection for her. She liked so many! The final decision we made was to combine two things and create that for her.

The dresses he created for the Gammage director had many important elements to both the designer and the wearer. The pottery designs are one of the local designer’s signature techniques as well as the lattice work he included in the design. The two also came together to decide to add a cape (or a back apron). The color red also held a lot of importance and made a big statement on the carpet of the award show. 

For us, it is ancestry. It was a creation of awareness to the missing and murdered indigenous women movement which is happening and gaining traction. We were really happy to have those things honored on the red carpet. To do so on a large platform, a very heavily viewed event, she represented us well.

Roggensack bonded with the designer over their passion for culture and their presence in Arizona and Arizona State University. Aragon is an alumnus of ASU.

The dress was a complete hit to everyone on social media. It was worn at the Tony Awards of 2019 held at Radio City Music Hall in New York on June 9. 

Your Phoenix CW reporter J Russell interviewed Aragon about how his journey led the founder to this point on Facebook Live.