KHALA HURDLE has crossed on thing off her bucket list that many are probably envious of. At 24-year-old the budding fashion designer has showcased a collection at Plitz Fashion Week New York.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity. As a result of my participation in Kingdom Fashion 2015, which was coordinated by Rykii Dejude, I was invited to showcase my collection called Deeper Than Threads.
“I showcased 13 full outfits, however I did have extras for just in case. But I wanted to show the strongest pieces I had created. Thankfully I didn’t have many issues with fitting the models, though up until the show day I had four key pieces I had not been able to have someone wear as a few of my models had dropped out. About an hour before the show I finally got the replacement models and everything fit like a dream. I did feel nervous at times, but I am so thankful for God’s peace and guidance,” she said.
Khala is the owner of Kalene Designs and always knew she wanted to have some level of an artistic creative outlet, though she didn’t know her passion for art and design would become her career.
Her first notable artistic accomplishment was a bronze medal in the NIFCA visual arts section at age eight. She continued to participate in many school based and national art exhibitions for simply the love of it.
“I was always more excited about having the piece to hang from my wall than the medals I would have won and from then I knew I wanted to have some sort of career in arts.”
At Queen’s College her art teacher Mrs Spink recognised her talents and under her tutelage, Khala passed art exams with distinctions. Further education at the Barbados Community College saw a certificate in fashion design, then a certificate in entrepreneurship with the YES programme to hone the necessary business skills.
She is currently completing two NVQs in apparel manufacturing technologies and textile and surface design
“It was definitely my love of textile design that drew me to fashion. After making textile designs for various projects at Queen’s College the natural progression was to transform that fabric into something more. It has always fascinated me how a pile of folded fabric could become a gown or blouse or whatever you can dream up.
“I also love how fashion is an outlet for self-expression. It can be incredibly empowering to watch my clients feel that energy when they are in the gown of their dreams or the power suit. My business name captures this thought as Kalene means flower and like the numerous types of flora, my clients are each uniquely beautiful.”
So far Khala has launched four collections: Resilient Beauty, Just Me, Marche Tourtee, and the latest, Deeper Than Threads.
“Deeper Than Threads features materials with strong meanings. I designed and created batik cloths which carry the message of our ancestors and the diaspora. The inspiration is deeply rooted in Adinkra symbolism of West Africa, with a personal Barbadian touch. The symbols used show emotions such as hope, strength, forgiveness and prosperity.
Kalene is a one-woman show, working from a studio in St Martins, St Philip.
“I mainly shop at Abed’s for fabrics. But I do source specialty fabrics such as African materials from other local entrepreneurs. I am currently into vibrant bold colours like passion red and power orange.
“I draw inspiration from everything around me. Sometimes it is the ambiance of people’s chatter in Bridgetown or the crash of waves on the rocks at East Coast. I am also inspired by world events and aspects of history.”
For Khala, her day depends on the complexity of the garment and the quantities she is working with. A bridal gown may take weeks of preparation, fittings and final tweaks, while something much simpler may take less than a day.
“The best perk in being a designer is when I am allowed to use my imagination and create things that are truly unique.”
Khala has been approached many times about her look of the day, especially when wearing a new design concept: “It’s always fun when I’m asked where I got it and I can then produce a business card and introduce myself,” she said chuckling.
Khala wants the public to appreciate the fashion industry a bit more.
“We think of seamstresses, dressmakers, designers or tailors as just a small level hobby that happens to pay the bills. When in fact there are so many aspects to the job that a person producing quality garments is actually juggling several different jobs . . . .”
The designer has been making sure that her brand becomes a household name.
“I am working to build a strong and effective business image. When you are starting out it is very difficult to stand up next to known brands . . . . It takes a lot of work to become a household name.
“The hardest thing with business is learning what products will be more suited to which buying season. It takes some time to figure out your niche market, but once you start to see the patterns developing year to year you can plan ahead accordingly.”