They say the more flavors you stir into the pot, the tastier soup it makes. Pulling from Persian, Middle Eastern, and Western design aesthetics, Urbana Chappa has created a cultural melting pot in her 2013 RTW runway collection. In twenty odd looks, Ms. Chappa has clearly defined her personal design ethic of blurring the lines between East and West.
Coming from an ancestral melting pot of her own with black, Persian, and Spanish parentage, Ms. Chappa can clearly appreciate the miasmic creations you can produce if you combine cultures in new and interesting ways. For her label, Maison de Urbana, Chappa does not merely juxtapose one cultural clothing icon, like a veil, against another, like a knit sweater. She blends those icons with unlikely materials, and more poignantly with surprising colors. When she uses the iconic Middle Eastern veil, which has become an international social symbol, she restrains from issuing it in the stark black, but rather celebrates that historical tradition with bright yellow, in a gorgeous lace rather than the obvious cotton fabric.
One could say that the veil, or burqa, should be considered the collection’s signature “look”. In a recent press release, Chappa revealed that, ““I’m fascinated at the way women in burqas can express so much through their eyes. It’s both sexy and mysterious.” This fascination shines through the collection, effectively capturing the Middle Eastern motif with a fresh and original eye.
An apparent genius when it comes to lace and sewing, Chappa never gives you anything expected. If she has gone out of her way to create a beautifully tailored black and white checkered knit pencil skirt, then she pairs it with an electric blue synthetic top, jolting the eye in an effort to shock and awe. This is no game for Chappa, who clearly came to LA Fashion Week to make a social commentary on how women use fashion to culturally and socially define themselves, all around the world.
This female conscientiousness stems from an overall theme in Urbana Chappa’s life. According to her profile, Chappa “wanted nothing more than to showcase the uniqueness of her style and personality to the world. Her apparel line Maison de Urbana was a direct result of her desire to empower women to voice their individuality in style.”
Creating designs that allow women to feel not only comfortable but also empowered is not an easy thing to achieve. It requires the correct balance between sex and modesty, discretion in fabric to create that goal, and a strictly trained eye. While still a relatively new designer, Chappa has had plenty of styling experience, creating unforgettable looks for artists like Diane Warren, Natasha Henstridge, and Philip Lawrence. She is also currently taking a short hiatus from pursuing her degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise.
With this training, and cultural experiences, it is no wonder that Chappa desired to create a collection that was geared towards making women feel powerful in her clothes. In a recent press release, Chappa explained that, “I started this so my designs could make every woman feel sexy in her own skin. I feel women need to stop adhering to pre-conceived norms for ‘beauty’ and ‘beautiful’. It’s about time women fought against society’s expectations and appreciated themselves for who they are.”
Chappa’s definition of comfort does not align itself with the notion that clothes should feel good in the physical or literal sense. Chappa’s much more concerned that women feel comfortable in their bodies while wearing her clothing, a metaphorical pursuit that reflects more on her own personal values than her design talent, both of which should be celebrated and praised.
Brittany Pearlman For The Los Angeles Fashion Magazine
Photography by: Kai He
(c) 2013 The Los Angeles Fashion