Will Hehemann | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
Themes of self-identity are at the heart of the fashion designs produced by K. RaShaé, the luxury women’s wear fashion brand founded in New York City by Kalisha Hall, a 2011 alumna of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. The company’s product line, which includes a diverse range of garments that emphasize texture, volume and bold patterns, asserts confidence, determination and individuality.
“I call it ‘purpose-driven design,’” said Hall. “The inspiration for the garments I create comes from an emotional standpoint and a desire to help others, especially women and young girls.”
Hall said when creating a particular design she considers the message it can send to others. She uses her creativity and desire to experiment with design to express themes of personal empowerment and self-confidence.
“My designs are based on the premise of being true to yourself and embracing the characteristics that make you who you are,” she said. “Each of us is unique and has a different purpose in this world. I want to inspire other women to have a positive outlook on themselves and the accomplishments they are capable of achieving.”
Hall said many of the themes of her work arose from her own experiences in overcoming personal boundaries and reaching for new opportunities, which eventually lead her from her hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas to New York City. After developing an interest in clothes and fashion at an early age, her true journey began when she decided to major in fashion merchandising at UAPB.
“Though I have always loved redesigning outfits and playing with clothes, I assumed I would eventually seek a career as a fashion buyer because I lacked the background in the creative aspects of fashion design,” she said. “However, I took a class in sewing and design during my senior year that I absolutely loved. My advisor, Kalari Turner, who was then an instructor of merchandising, textiles and design, said I should seriously consider redirecting my focus toward the creative and design aspects of fashion rather than the business side of the industry.”
After graduation, Hall was hired as a sales representative at Fashion Industry Gallery in Dallas, Texas. Though her job was primarily sales-focused, she used her creative talents to piece together garments in original combinations during presentations with buyers. When Hall’s manager noticed her knack for innovation, she encouraged her to go back to school to hone her natural design skills, and suggested that she apply to institutions in New York City.
Acting on the encouragement, Hall applied to Parsons School of Design, a private art and design college located in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. When she received a letter of acceptance and a scholarship to major in fashion design, she knew she had to take the chance of a lifetime.
“At first it was intimidating to move to New York,” she said. “I wondered what the experience would be like, considering my upbringing in a small town and the fact that I would speak a bit differently from everyone else in the classroom.”
Hall quickly realized there was no time to worry about apprehensions, as she became absorbed by the college’s fast-paced, demanding schedule. In addition to regular coursework, she interned at House of Z, the women’s apparel company owned by designer Zac Posen. For her senior thesis, she had to conceptualize and design a complete clothing collection and present it in front of a pool of actual clothing buyers.
“The rigorous schedule at Parsons taught me how to make efficient timelines and meet tight deadlines,” she said. “I spent many late nights in the classroom sewing.”
After graduating with honors, Hall sought hands-on experience at a startup bridal company to complement her experience as an intern at a large company.
“I wanted to experience first-hand every step and challenge involved in starting your own fashion company,” she said. “In addition to designing and draping, I was also responsible for maintaining the company’s social media presence. It was a fantastic opportunity to watch a business grow from the ground up.”
Hall was hired in her first salaried position in the digital visual merchandising department for the menswear company JackThreads. Later, however, she was incidentally part of a layoff following the hire of a new creative director. The setback turned out to be the push Hall needed to refocus the direction of her career.
“The tragedy of losing my job turned into a blessing when I started using the connections I had made over the years to figure out how to start my own fashion brand,” she said. “Contrary to what one might think about New York stereotypes, my colleagues were always gracious in offering their support, resources and advice as I set out to start my own company.”
Hall said things quickly went into full throttle as she started building a folder of contacts and setting up appointments with fabric vendors. Seamstresses she had formerly worked with helped sew some of her original designs, while her fiancé, Terrance Price, used his career experience in advertising to help her create a logo and branding, as well as a portfolio of stylish promotional materials.
After months of hard work, K. RaShaé was officially founded. Since its inception, the company has released two product lines that embrace the mantra “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,” which is meant to encourage women to embrace their individuality.
Hall’s designs have been featured in Sports Illustrated, CBS Watch Magazine, Women’s Wear Daily, California Apparel News, LA Travel Magazine and Fashion 360 Magazine. Some of her garments were also recently featured in the Fox musical television series “Star.” In March 2017, she presented her most recent fashion collection at Paris Fashion Week after receiving an invitation from the Oxford Fashion Studio.
When she is not crunching sales numbers and marketing new designs to retailers, Hall enjoys focusing on the artistic parts of the job that allow her to express her creativity. She tries to share the joy she derives from creative expression by regularly speaking to groups of girls and young women at educational and church camps.
“I want to motivate other young women by letting them know they are capable of anything they put their mind to,” she said. “I tell them that you don’t have to look at your past or where you are from to judge where you are going. We all have the ability to shape our destiny if we believe in ourselves.”
Hall said she received similar messages of inspiration and support from her professors at UAPB.
“My advisor, Ms. Turner, saw more potential in me than I saw in myself at the time,” she said. “She challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and consider the things I was capable of achieving.”
Hall aims to impart a similar message to others as she continues a journey based on inner strength that began in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.