Consider the Burkha.  For most of us in the West, it is either an object of mystery, or an evil piece of cloth designed to imprison women and subjugate them to a status as “less than”.

Maison de Urbana

For Urbana Chappa, it is part fashion statement, part mystery.  Backstage before her first ever runway show, she told me, “I think it’s so powerful that they can tell so much through their eyes and not necessarily show too much skin.  It’s just amazing what a woman can show through her eyes.  It’s mystery, it’s sexy, it’s powerful.”

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That pretty much describes her collection.  She said, “I was inspired by the Burkha, which we’re now calling the ‘Burkhana.’ It’s half Burkha, half Urbana.”  And all amazingly beautiful.  She clearly took her inspiration to new heights.

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She often added a light and simple hood to sophisticated looks.  But when she went all the way with the Burkha, it was beautifully mysterious in lace, or embellished with shine. They topped off sexy lace gowns in black and bright yellow, or a brilliant, blood-red jumpsuit.

Maison de UrbanaUrbana began her career in music as a backup singer and a stylist to rap stars.  So her journey into the Middle East was tempered by a real feel for the street, which came through perfectly in sparkling beaded pants or sexy, tie-dyed evening wear.  Her daywear was comfortable, wearable and colorful.  Her mixture of prints and textures really brought the collection to life.

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But it was in her original inspiration that she shined, from the flowing, almost caftan-like dresses right down to her choice of makeup.  Her makeup artist, Melanie Mills, said, for a first-timer, Urbana was amazingly focused and knew exactly what she wanted.

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“It’s all about color, it’s all about women, it’s all about power,” she told me.  “The whole thing works around the Middle East and the Burkha and having to hide yourself.  So, it’s all about the eyes, too.  And we wanted to bring all that drama.”  And she did, with a heavy-kohled eye and yellow shadow, with just a little shock  of purple.

Maison de UrbanaUrbana is based in L.A., but gladly took on the herculean task of mounting a runway show in New York during Fashion Week, with only six months to prepare.  Her determination brought her here, and so did her talent for creating a brand of wearable beauty.  I know we’ll see her again next season.

To view Maison de Urbana runway and hear from designer Urbana Chappa click below.

Video & Edit: Scott Fetterman  Music: Tony Di Pietro  Still Photography: Anton Brookes

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