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PHOENIX — Hunkpapa Lakota fashion designer Kayla Lookinghorse-Smith is in the midst of a tremendous year, as she prepares to showcase her brand K.Lookinghorse in the Phoenix Fashion Week’s “Emerging Designer of the Year” program next weekend.

The popular fashion event will take place on October 20-21, at the Chateau Luxe in Phoenix, Arizona. The Phoenix fashion show attracts some of the most ambitious fashion models and designers throughout the country. 

“Participating in the Phoenix Fashion Week’s emerging designer bootcamp has given me so much inspiration and fire to continue to push myself and brand forward,” Lookinghorse-Smith, the owner of K.Lookinghores, said to Native News Online.

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Lookinghorse-Smith is an enrolled citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Currently, based in Southampton, New York with her family on traditional Shinecock Indian Territory, she considers her brand contemporary that honors her Lakota and Dakota heritage and extended family, or tiospaye in Lakota.

Lookinghorse-Smith strives to create intriguing, wearable art and statement jewelry pieces and she has several collaborations including Generation One by LXL, a Native American and African American women owned clothing collaboration. 

Lookinghorse-Smith has prepared an entirely new look for her showcase at the PFW’s fashion show on Saturday evening.


"Empowerment Piece" by Kayla Lookinghorse-Smith (Photo/K.Lookhorse)

“I started a totally new design, mid-summer,” Lookinghorse-Smith said. “I felt I wanted to focus on my ‘ready-to-wear’ clothing.”

Lookinghorse-Smith found out about the Phoenix Fashion Week’s designer of the year program earlier this year from the organization, when they reached out to encourage her to apply for its competitive fashion designer bootcamp. Their interaction led to virtual meetings, to being accepted as one of ten fashion designers chosen for its “Emerging Designer of the Year” program. The bootcamp teaches a rigorous curriculum aimed at strengthening business acumen, writing press releases and interaction with media, developing a brand and so much more. 

Phoenix Fashion Week’s ten brands that are competing for Emerging & Accessory Designer of the Year for 2024, are Aloha Glamour from Gulf Port, Mississippi; Frequency Collection of Phoenix, Arizona; Gemifly of Phoenix, Arizona;  K. Lookinghorse based in South Hampton, New York; Luebbert Swim from Portland, Oregon;  Olivia Noire from Gilbert, Arizona; RAINE from Phoenix, Arizona; Sloane Design from Scottsdale, Arizona; The Lost Cove Co., Los Angeles, California; and Throne of Grace Clothing, based in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Phoenix Fashion Week is considered the leading fashion event in the Southwest and over the last several years, Indigenous talent and skill have wowed crowds and has gained  popularity.

Phoenix Fashion Week’s last designer of the year was Norma Baker-Flyinghorse, a Dakota and Hidatsa fashion designer from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Baker-Flyinghorse’s fashion brand Red Berry Woman was awarded a $10,000 cash prize and commercial partnership.

Beyond the Phoenix Fashion Week, Lookinghorse-Smith is preparing for an international showing at the Vancouver Fashion Week, scheduled for November 2023, where she was preparing for a full 10-piece couture release. 

Preparation for a fashion show varies from show to show, and designer to designer, and in this case, 

Time constraints and commitments to other fashion shows were her reasoning for choosing ready-to-wear items to showcase in the Phoenix Fashion Week competition. “Phoenix Fashion Week was that fire I needed to just go, and it created a creative spark to create a new collection,” she said.

K. Lookinghorse will introduce The Timeless Collection at the Phoenix Fashion Week this weekend.

“The Timeless Collection for K. Lookinghorse stands out amongst designers for its authentic Indigenous designed garments with an aesthetic specific to her family,” the Phoenix Fashion Week organization said in a statement of Kayla Lookinghorse’s designs. “The patterned dresses and statement jackets are the cornerstone for her fast-growing brand. A brand where storytelling meets comfort and glamor to naturally empower women.”

Her prior commitments this year included the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s fashion show scheduled at its Reservation Economic Summit’s 40 Under 40 Celebration, the Black Hills Fashion Show, Minneapolis Fashion Week, and IllumiNative’s Inaugural Indigenous House in Hollywood this past Friday, October 13. 

“This new collection, I rushed the order, and I received the last samples last week,” she said. “It’s been rush, preparing for Phoenix Fashion Week.” 

She thanked her graphic designer, Chad Yellowjohn, for getting her prepared to compete for PFW’s Emerging Designer of the Year. “He helped complete my vision,” she said of Yellowjohn. “He made the vision come to life.”

“The tools that I have gathered throughout the summer, from Phoenix Fashion Week, I'm already completely happy with where I am,” Lookinghorse-Smith said. “To become the Emerging Design of the Year would be absolutely amazing, but it’s not the icing on the cake for me. I have built so many relationships by utilizing the tools that the Phoenix Fashion Week gave me and that’s everlasting.” 

Beyond this coming weekend at the Phoenix event, Lookinghorse has an additional full-couture line she has prepared for her international showing at the Vancouver Fashion Week later this November, a Red Carpet appearance for Jhane Myers’ Emmy nomination in January 2024, and showcasing at the Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival in Canada in April 2024. 

For more information on the Phoenix Fashion Week, or this weekend’s schedule of events, visit their website at www.phoenixfashionweek.com

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About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.