Heels & Picks: Rock on with Urban Gypsy

Sep. 3, 2013 | 0 Comments

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BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Back in June, I was a part of an evening of fashion and music at thirtyninehotel hosted by NYC-based public relations firm the Lawrence Blake Group.

The Fashion Front Awards Hawai’i was held to recognize and showcase local designers; my role was to help choose which fashion designer from a runway show that night would be champion of the evening. I was also signed up to perform a few songs.

A model showing off one of Urban Gypsy's feather headdresses. (Courtesy photo)

A model showing off one of Urban Gypsy’s feather headdresses. (Courtesy photo)

Five designers were featured that night, all of them unique with their own signature styles and strengths. I knew picking a winner would turn out to be a difficult task.

Of all the fashion houses represented that evening, however, I was taken with the wild, bohemian headdresses of Urban Gypsy. In their runway show, Urban Gypsy sleekly paired feathers, furs and animal prints with a high fashion look.

Wildly off-kilter yet refined at the same time, their runway collection had an indie air to it. Their look seemed inspired by music festivals and earthy activism, yet had a sleekness that clearly confirmed we were at a fashion show and not the mosh pit at Coachella.

Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact there are a high number of faux furred and feathered items in my closet. There is usually some kind of animal half-leaping out of the crack in my closet door trying to get worn and make me look fabulous at Whole Foods Market.

That’s why it’s not surprising I would be drawn to Urban Gypsy. I can spot a rocker when I see one. Or two, in the case of Honolulu-based design duo Morgan de Partee and Michelle Curiel.

Among their interests outside of designing and creating headdresses and fur hoods that form Urban Gypsy’s signature look, de Partee and Curiel enjoy sky diving, fire dancing and the beach. The general vibe of their pieces reflects their fearless, risk-taking vision and a sense of peace and nature, all of which are elements of the designers’ lifestyles.

There is a saying that the best art comes from life experience and from an artist’s own unique life-built perspective, and that saying definitely rings true for Urban Gypsy.

Their bold blue feather headdress in the shape of a Mohawk caught my attention immediately during the runway show, a unique style for any maven and a great item for pairing with a more subdued black mini dress for a statement piece. That headdress would look amazing at a rock ‘n’ roll photo shoot.

Models show off the work of local design duo Urban Gyspy during the 2013 Fashion Front Awards Hawai’i at thirtyninehotel in June. (Star-Advertiser File)

Models show off the work of local design duo Urban Gyspy during the 2013 Fashion Front Awards Hawai’i at thirtyninehotel in June. (Star-Advertiser File)

Urban Gypsy also specializes in fur hoods, which look to be individualized piece of art in wearable form. No two are alike and they look super-cozy. I would wear one on a flight to a colder climate and happily be pegged as a total weirdo by the flight crew.

After taking in the entire runway show, the other judges and I were unable to pick a clear winner, so we set up the prizes accordingly that each competing designer received good exposure and opportunities as a result of their participation.

Though I did enjoy all of the designers, the edge and spirit of Urban Gypsy stuck with me long after the runway was packed up and I had slipped out into the streets of Chinatown and back to Kailua in the inky black, star-filled night.

I look forward to seeing more from Urban Gypsy, and to the evolution of their design and scope, locally, on the mainland and beyond.
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Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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