KHALA HURDLE is a body activist who is reforming the concept of beauty. But what is true beauty? Khala had a hard time figuring out what that word meant to her.
She used to look in the mirror and question if the meaning of the word applied to her physique. Her broad hips and curves, the size of her breasts, her rich skin tone and her stature did not resemble the body type of women who were deemed physically attractive. For a while she struggled with her confidence until she got in tune with her African roots.
“I find when we hear about black history we hear about slavery and we stop there,” she said.
“There were over 400 years of prosperous African history before. African culture is so rich and diverse that if you had to do the slightest bit of research on any of the tribes you can be inspired,” Khala told EASY magazine recently.
“It is a big continent and although there are many countries on that piece of rock there are so different and unique. I am amazed at the diverse languages, the people and the colours the rural people use to symbolise the meanings of their culture. Their patterns are fun and interesting and it inspired me to create batik clothing.”
“Another element of African culture I love is that being thick and having more form and size is celebrated in Africa. It is hard to put into words how much that makes me feel. Why do we keep changing to fit a European standard of beauty?
“If you fit that body type it is fine, but women who look different should not be bashed about their figure.”
Khala, who is based in St Philip, recalled one of her fashion lines that challenged the Western concept of beauty.
“It challenged the thought of stick-thin figures on the runway and how women had to strive to be of a particular body size. Women of all body types should feel comfortable and appreciated in their own skin and there should be clothing designed and tailored to show off the assets of curvy-shaped women.
“That is why I am so passionate about my work and creating batik designs to bring out the natural attributes in customers’ figures.”
After building her knowledge on African designs and prints, Khala decided to add her own twist to African clothing.
Using the same bright and expressive colours, she uses textiles and shapes of things unique to the Caribbean. She told EASY she enjoyed fusing the two cultures.
Moreover, the 25 year-old, who showcased her talent at Plitz New York Fashion Week last year, told EASY that her success in the fashion industry did not come easy. She recalled the late nights she didn’t sleep, praying for a breakthrough.
Through it all, she explained her determination came from her mother’s spirit. She said watching her mother fight cancer made her hungrier for success.
“My mother was diagnosed with stage four cancer shortly after my grandmother passed away, and that was a hard time for me. I was young at the time and she tried to shield me from what was going but as I got older I understood what her sickness meant and the effects of it. My mother was so determined to fight it.
“Even when she felt severe pain and during her therapy visits to the doctor she went to work.
Her mother, who had years in the education field as a teacher, had the choice of an early retirement but said she would not be sent home medically unfit and end her career and passion.
“That drive she had and love for her work propelled me to focus, home in on my skills and go after my goals.”
Khala said her peers and friends ridiculed her during her early period in the fashion industry. She explained that she was academically gifted but poring over books was not satisfying.
“People would make statements like ‘You get back all those distinctions and grade ones and went at Queen’s College to make clothes for somebody’?”
“After a while I had to pull myself together and not let those comments get to me.
“What defines success?” she asked. “Why do you have to have a certain career to be successful and why do people look down on the creative industry?”
Through it all, Khala is proud of what she has accomplished so far in life. She is the owner of Kalene Designs and said hard work and dedication helped her reached this point in her career.
“Art is not only something geared towards tourism; it is what we offer to the world that is distinctively Barbadian and Caribbean. We need to stop painting the creative minds of our people in a negative way.”