Khalisha is a 19-year-old graphic communication design student at Central Saint Martins in London, UK.
What’s your relationship with your mother like?
Like trying to match two magnets together from a sea of magnets. Sometimes if we meet and the magnets don’t match, it just doesn’t work. But if we keep trying and find a magnet that matches we’re inseparable.
Can you tell us a bit about your style? Who/what is your biggest influence?
It changes all the time, with different phases like the season. Whatever I am into, whether it be literature or art or someone whom I follow on Instagram, will influence my style. At the moment, contemporary fine art has influenced my style. I like having a juxtaposition of silhouettes, textures and colours. In Indonesia, I try to incorporate some sort of garment made out of local fabric. I also love monochromatic workwear as a staple. Oh, and some streetwear brands have really nice items that I can’t afford – being at Saint Martins has also affected my style.
How is your style different or similar to your mom’s expectations?
We have this sweet spot in our tastes that are exactly the same, so it’s definitely not too different. Perhaps several years ago when I was an angsty child (and maybe also too egoistic) I would wear thrifted items instead of the clean-cut look she wanted me to wear. I felt like that look was too basic and it didn’t let me express my true spirit. I didn’t really want to blend in at the time. Now it’s not really about standing out but dressing up according to what feels right to me.
How do these expectations fit into the larger context of her living/having lived in Indonesia?
Conforming to a particular standard. My mother is someone who thinks a lot about how other people think despite what she says is the latter. My theory is that because of her career and perhaps social circle, one’s style reflects how successful/wealthy they are. Problematic, but I’ve learned not to let that get to me anymore. Sounds grim too, but it isn’t that bad most of the time.
How do these societal/personal expectations affect your identity and behaviour?
I became an angsty wreck. Being a child of the Internet, I was faced with this world that “understood” me. Alternative music, fashion, art, people on the Internet were pursuing a life and a style that were authentic to themselves. So seeing how they were able to live like that made me subconsciously angry, and it certainly made me more outspoken about my thoughts and ideas.
I didn’t have the best time in school. At school, everyone conformed to each other. I remember trying to conform just to see what it was all about, and it was absolute hell. But since I was dubbed ‘the weird kid’ already, whatever weird thing I’d do is already expected of me, so I quit trying. Nobody would understand anyway.
Do you think your style changed when you moved to a Western country (where it’s presumably more tolerant and accepting)? Why?
Absolutely, because Western cultures are more individualistic than collectivist, I finally was able to become the person I wanted to become. People were so supportive since I am in a rather outlandish art school. Without my friends at school, I wouldn’t have the guts to dress up!
Is there a perception of femininity that you hope could change in Indonesian society?
I just finished an audiobook called Women Who Run with the Wolves and one thing that struck me the most is that in each and every woman there is a wild woman inside of us – that voice inside of ourselves that pushes us to do what we truly want, the fearlessness inside us. I don’t consider myself the modern feminist that we know of today, but I am aware that we are a patriarchal society and that patriarchy deeply affected women in Indonesia, disabling them of truly pursuing their authentic lives. “Perfection” is one thing that is much often the pursuit of women in Indonesia. I think the most insane people in society are the ones who think that there is such a concept.