By Theodora MacLeod - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on September 21, 2023.
Natasha Gurney, owner of Kurvy Kouture co. in downtown Lethbridge, has a message to share and it’s about more than fashion: Your body is good, it always was.
She’s not in the business of “body positivity” or “body acceptance” though, explaining that both the acceptance and positivity movements are rooted in racism and beauty ideals based on whiteness.
Instead, Gurney, believes in radical self-love and body neutrality, that there is much more to someone than their size, a message she shared with a lively audience on Friday night in Festival Square.
As one of the few stores in the area that caters to plus size women, Kurvy Kouture co. is the hub of a budding community of women who have often been left on the sidelines.
“It’s not shopping, it’s a whole experience. You don’t walk out without a new best friend,” Gurney says, explaining that the shop was designed intentionally for plus size women, featuring spacious fitting rooms, a seating area, and a fridge with refreshments for both the shoppers and those who accompany them. She and her team are not just there to sell clothing, they’re creating a sisterhood.
When the border between Canada and the United States closed in 2020, Gurney quickly realized that for years she had been travelling south of the border to buy her clothes.
With extremely limited options for plus size clothing in Lethbridge, she took matters into her own hands and what began as a small personal investment to purchase six pieces has grown into a welcoming and beautiful storefront that, on Friday hosted an event filled with love, fashion, and community.
The stage in Festival Square became a runway as the sun set and local women -customers and friends of Kurvy Kouture co. all who wear a size nine or larger- modeled the store’s Fall collection. Unlike what most big box stores have to offer, the collection is filled with variety in colours, styles, and silhouettes, from formalwear to business and casual. Nary an oversized, shapeless, floral garment among the looks, Kurvy Kouture co. is finally offering what plus size women have been desperate for, fashionable clothing.
In a culture that for decades has rewarded and upheld smaller (and mostly Caucasian) bodies as a beacon of acceptability and beauty, Gurney is open about the impact that has had on her self-image, and how cruel people can be to women and girls in larger bodies.
“When did having chubby cute rolls turn into, I’m concerned about her weight? The truth is, about four years old,” she explains, noting that it is often family members commenting on the girl’s body, as if her size is a problem to be fixed. “What the hell are you saying out loud to a child?”
A mother of three, with two daughters in adolescence she wants better for them than a world where body size is a defining factor of someone’s worth. “I believe we all have infinite worth.”
But Gurney admits that running a business is no simple task. “The truth and the vulnerability is that Kurvy cannot exist without the support of curvy women and of its community. We will never stay open if you don’t believe your worth.” Having never paid herself, her passion for the community and her message cannot be denied.
If Gurney had it her way, she would grow her store into a lifestyle empire of safe spaces for plus size women. A gym without judgement, a restaurant, esthetic services, places where plus size women can exist without the fear of physical and social barriers. But an empire takes time and money, so for now she is teaming up with local businesses that she can direct her customers to as other safe spaces in the community, hosting uplifting and welcoming events, and shouting her message as loud as she can. Your body is good, it always was.