Berkeley College Student Reflects on Journey into Fashion Industry with Joanna Gagis

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Photo Caption: Phumelele Kunene, Berkeley College student and President/Designer of BlackPhumelele Designs, discusses developing a career in fashion during an appearance on the public television program Life & Living with Joanna Gagis on July 1, 2017.

Berkeley College student and President/Designer of BlackPhumelele Designs, Phumelele Kunene, appeared on the public television program Life & Living with Joanna Gagis on July 1, 2017. Born in South Africa and raised in Swaziland, Ms. Kunene reflected on transitioning from a career in banking to the fashion industry after immigrating to the United States.

“As a young girl, I always had an interest in designing. I used to observe my mom on her sewing machine,” Ms. Kunene said. “At some point, though, the passion wasn’t so clear to me. When I was nine years old, I used to make dresses for myself and my mother would actually alter them … so I never really got to wear my own designs, and that passion was left dormant in me. As an adult, I would always say, ‘If I had a sewing machine, I would change this design to that.’ When I got my first sewing machine in 2007, it was because someone kept hearing me say that.”

Click here to watch Ms. Kunene’s entire appearance on Life & Living with Joanna Gagis.

Ms. Kunene is currently pursuing a BBA in Fashion Merchandising and Management with an International Business minor at Berkeley College, on track to graduate in 2018. She was one of the inaugural designers-in-residence of theBROOKLYNfashionincubator (BFI) at Berkeley College. The incubator, one of five spearheaded by Macy’s in talent-rich areas across the United States, provides its designers access to work space, supplies and advice from leading experts in all facets of the fashion business, including sourcing, production, marketing and e-commerce.

“There was really a gap between being a designer and designing while running a business,” Ms. Kunene said, noting that she began to direct her focus on making BlackPhumelele Designs a viable business in 2015. “In my case, theBROOKLYNfashionincubator helped me cement the process of creating a viable line to show to buyers, and make sure I had the right materials to communicate with other professional entities while running a business.”

BFI recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, welcoming a new group of designers. Click here to learn more about this year’s designers-in-residence.

BlackPhumelele Designs will be hosting a pop-up shopping event from July 24 to August 5, 2017, at The Meat Market (380 Tompkins Ave, Brooklyn, NY). Ms. Kunene also has been working on the launch of her organic skincare product line, Ebaata Skincare.  Click here to learn more about Ms. Kunene and BlackPhumelele Designs.

Share the News: @BerkeleyCollege @BlackPhumelele @JoannaGagis #theBROOKLYNfashionincubator #BizWithStyle #NewsBerkeley

A leader in providing career-focused education since 1931, Berkeley College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and enrolls more than 8,000 students – including more than 550 international students – in its Master’s, Bachelor’s, and Associate’s degree and Certificate programs. Students can study in more than 20 career fields. Berkeley College is comprised of the Larry L. Luing School of Business®, the School of Professional Studies, the School of Health Studies and the School of Liberal Arts. The School of Graduate Studies offers an MBA in Management online and in Woodland Park, NJ.

Berkeley College has three New York campuses – Midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and White Plains. In New Jersey there are five campuses – Dover, Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park. Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. For four consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Berkeley College among the Best Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Programs and among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans. The website address is

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To view a high-resolution version of the above photo, click here.

To watch Phumelele Kunene’s entire appearance on Life & Living with Joanna Gagis, click here.


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