Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Life & Living with Joanna Gagis: Phumelele Kunene | Berkeley College

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>> Welcome back to Life and Living.

From Swaziland to America, from banking to fashion design, my next guest is an entrepreneur

with a world of experience.

She's Phume Kunene, designer and founder of Black Phumelele Designs.

Welcome to the program, Phume.

>> Thanks for having me.

>> We see your designs back here.

They are beautiful.

>> Thanks for saying that.

>> They are.

I love the colors, the vibrancy of it.

We're going get into all of this and what line this is.

But can we take it back a little bit?

>> Yeah, sure.

>> Let's take it back to the beginning, when did you first know you had an interest in


>> So I grew up in Swaziland.

And as a young girl, I always had an interest of designing.

I used to observe my mom on her machine.

>> Her sewing machine? >> Her sewing machine, yeah.

So later on in 2007, I got my first sewing machine, and I started making dresses.

And it was basically at the point on a personal level, and then I came to America and started

-- and launched my business back in 2013 Black Phumelele Designs.

>> But you were working in the banking industry for a little while?

>> Oh, yeah, yes.

>> At what point did you say -- you knew you had the interest because as a young kid, you watched your mother.

By the way, I watched my mother as a young kid, too, and decided I really never want

to do that.

[LAUGHTER] That's how you know it's in you.

You either have it or you don't.

But you go into the banking industry and at point do you say, No, I really want to tap

into this passion that I know I have?

>> At some point, the passion wasn't so clear to me. So I -- I'll actually just revisit that

when I was nine years old, I used to make dresses for myself, and my mom would actually alter

them while I was still in school.

I would come back from school, they would be lying on the bed like with a different pattern, like a

a different fabric on the side.

And I wouldn't say anything, I would just like cry.

She wouldn't say anything.

It was just communication through dress.

>> You would cry out of happiness or because she was changing your vision?

>> Because she was changing my vision, so I never really got to wear that dresses.

And that passion lay dormant within me.

I would always say -- as an adult now, I would always say, If I had a sewing machine I would change

this design to that that.

And when I got my first sewing machine that's because somebody heard me kept on saying that.

>> They so they got it for you.

>> Right.

>> Okay so fast forward, do you have this design company Black Phumelele Designs.

>> Right, right.

>> Talk about launching it and what goes into that process.

>> So I launched back in 2013, but it was really a soft launch.

Back in 2015, I decided to focus on creating it as a viable business.

And I created a new line, and I wanted to show it during New York Fashion Week.

And there was really a gap between being a designer or designing and running a business.

>> Did you show it at Fashion Week?

>> Yes, I did.

>> What is that experience like being there, part of New York fashion week?

>> It's so surreal.

I took a really big step.

That's how I launched it in becoming this fashion designer emerging in New York.

So people really got word -- I mean, I got the word out there, and it was surreal.

That's the word.

It was surreal.

>> Okay.

So I know you had some help doing this.

You were very, very smart.

You looked around at what was out.

And there's a school right now that is really helping designers, young designers like you,

launch a product.

You worked with Berkeley, right, Berkeley College?

>> Right.

>> They have a Fashion Incubator Program.

What is that?

>> So the Fashion Incubator is one of five incubators that's spearheaded by Macy's, and

it's housed in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn campus of Berkeley College.

And what they do, they help afford young businesses to take it -- help them take it to the next


In my case, what I've walked away with is really cementing the process of creating a

viable line that you can show to buyers and cre -- making sure that I have the right spreadsheets,

right materials to actually communicate with different or various entities within the fashion


>> So actually running the business, right, making the relationships, making sure you

can present your product and making sure you can sell it?

>> Right.

>> What about the manufacturing piece of it?

>> The manufacturing piece -- I manufacture in New York so I got resources through BFI

which is Berkeley -- Brooklyn Fashion Incubator to know where to actually go and produce here

in New York.

>> Is it important to you to stay local?

>> It's definitely important because I'm able to go and do checks and balances and making

sure that the pieces are coming out as I've instructed on the design sheets.

>> Really quickly, how would you describe the look and feel of this line coming out?

This is the Global Explosion line?

>> This is the Global Explosion.

It's really infused with colors.

I've used a lot of cottons and different colors.

It's really vibrant collection.

>> A little retro?

I feel a little retro vibe there.

>> It's retro, and you have a little bit of, you know, the '70s feel on the floral one.

>> A little bit of your heritage mixed in there?

>> Yes, a little bit of heritage and a little bit of sailor -- sailor top with the blue


>> Yes.

I love that.

I love the blue one; I love the color.

Quickly, what is next for you?

>> What is next for me is really in April, we're looking at being in six boutiques between

Brooklyn and New York City, and then adding two more boutiques every month after that.

>> Two boutiques every month, and people can find your designs online.

Tell them where.

>> Yes Black -- It's

I also do pop-up events and vending events as well.

>> You are on the cutting edge of design in this area.

And I have a feeling that we're going to you again in just a little while when you are

exploding and in boutiques everyone where.

>> Thank you.

>> New York, New Jersey, all around the world.

>> That's the plan.

>> All right. Phumelele, thank you for joining us.

>> Thank you.

>> That was terrific.

>> Life and Living has been a production of The Caucus Educational Corporation, celebrating

over 25 years of broadcast excellence and NJTV.

Funding for this edition of Life and Living with Joanna Gagis has been provided by:

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