Designer Phumelele Kunene Talks Inspiration and Business
Phumelele Kunene, Designer and Founder of BlackPhumelele Designs, talks about the inspiration behind her designs and how the BrooklynFashionIncubator Program at Berkeley College has helped her expand and improve her business.
"Welcome back to Life & Living. From Swaziland to America, from banking to fashion design, my next guest is an entrepreneur with a world of experience. She is Phumelele Kunene, Designer and Founder of BlackPhumelele Designs. Welcome to the program Phume. Thanks for having me. We see your designs back here, they are beautiful. Oh thanks for saying that. [laughter] They are! I love the colors, the vibrancy of it. We're gonna get into all of this... Right. ...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 that you had an interest in design? 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 - BlackPhumelele Designs. But you were working in the banking industry for a while? Oh yeah, yes. So at what point did you say you knew you had the interest? Cause as a young kid you watched your mother? Right. By the way, I watched my mother as a young kid too, and decided I really never want to do that. [laughter] So that's how you know it's in you! [laughter] Yes! [laughter] You either have it or you don't? Yeah. But you go into the banking industry? Right. And then at what point do you say, "You know, 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'll actually just revisit when I was nine years old. I used to make dresses for myself. And my ma would actually alter them while I was still in school. I would come back from school, they'd be laying on the bed, with a different pattern, like 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? No. Or cry because she was changing your vision? Because she was changing my vision. So I never really got to wear those dresses. And that passion laid dormant within me. And I would always say, "If I..." as an adult now, I would always say, "If I had a sewing machine, I would actually change this design to that that..." and when I got my first sewing machine, that's because somebody..."