05 Jun Young South Africa: Phendu Kuta | A Bold, Unlabelled Pursuit
Phendu Kuta by Obakeng Molepe
Just short of a year ago Phendu Kuta founded Unlabelled, an online South African youth culture magazine for which she now acts as creative director, editor and stylist. Through this, she aims to encourage youth to embrace their unique identity while offering a fresh perspective on what it means to be young in SA.
Phendu’s entrepreneurial roots go even further back than this, to the jewellery business she founded in 2011 while completing her studies at Lisof. Upon graduating, she immersed herself in the fashion industry – she was project manager for the International Fashion Sale’s 50 Young Designers and in late 2013, she became a visual merchandiser for the international brand Mango. In 2014 Phendu took a leap both personally and professionally; she resigned and set to work on pursuing her own dreams and so, Unlabelled was born.
For our current Young South Africa series we caught up with her to chat about what she learnt from starting a magazine from scratch, what Unlabelled stands for and how she plans to grow the platform going forward.
Growing up, was there ever any indication that you’d be doing what you are today?
Not entirely, I’d say after 16 was when I started to fall in love with entrepreneurship and fashion magazines. I was really into entertainment, particularly acting when I was growing up.
You founded your first business back in 2011 while you were studying at Lisof. What did this teach you about entrepreneurship?
I really enjoyed arts and crafts when I founded Edged Designs and the decision to create the business was on a whim so I didn’t have a plan going forward. It started off as just a hobby and then turned into a business, but I didn’t know how far to take it and where to take it. So that experience taught me to plan, refine and never stop learning.
You’ve also had experience in retail/fashion industry, as a visual merchandiser for Mango. What are some of the most valuable things you learnt as a result of this experience?
Retail taught me to be more open and to be accepting of different types of people. I grew in character mostly. It really pushed me to do what I love and be myself, mainly because I realised whilst working there that I wasn’t meant to be there. I was meant to be chasing my dreams.
Ayanda Duma by Nikki Zakkas
It’s been almost a year since you founded the South African youth culture magazine, Unlabelled. What sparked your interest in the world of online publishing? Did you take to it naturally, or was it quite a steep learning curve to start?
I had wanted to start a magazine since my second year in Lisof but I was told by someone I look up to to work first and get experience. Online publishing was the easiest way to go rather than print. Starting off was quite hard – not necessarily taking the step of starting, but everything leading up to the point where I launched the first issue. Things I never knew could potentially go wrong went wrong, but I took it all in stride because it definitely gets better with time.
What does Unlabelled represent? Do you intend it to be a voice for the youth in SA?
Unlabelled definitely aims to be a voice for the youth in SA, it exists to showcase our identity and the things we identify with. With every issue we release I make sure that we are trying to be more and more in tune with the zeitgeist. Our inspiration comes from specific areas rather than specific subcultures. Joburg can be so diverse especially in the CBD and surrounding areas and that’s what makes it so interesting.
Makhosonke Castro by Brian Molepo
What does it mean to be young in South Africa right now?
It means we have so many opportunities that others never had before. It means anything is possible for anyone, if you stay informed.
How do you come up with concepts for editorials, features and articles? Who else is involved in this process?
It’s about observing. I observe a lot, what is happening online, what is happening in Braamfontein, Newtown, Maboneng etc. My team and I are all actively involved in creating concepts, I come up with a theme and we all brainstorm. The collaborators are also involved in the conceptualising. It’s about my vision but aligning it with everyone I work with so that it feels like it belongs to all of us.
In May you hosted an Unlabelled night market and a photography exhibition. How else might you grow or extend the platform going forward? Where do you see it going?
The next one will be in a few months, I don’t want to say too much but it will have a cool addition to the first concept. Right now it’s about refining the concept that I came up with for the first one and getting involved with experienced individuals or companies to take the event to the next level. The foundation of the concept is to create opportunities for young and up and coming photographers and designers and thankfully it helped quite a few young brands.
Tzvi Karp by Andile Buka
Have you identified any trends that are shaping the youth in our country?
I’d say the youth right now are more vocal in making a change regarding issues in our country and in the world.
What do you think is promising about your generation?
I’d say we are fearless, informed and quite in tune with ourselves and the world.
What do you hope to have achieved in 10 years’ time?
I hope to have achieved a lot of growth in character. I hope to own more than one successful business and have fulfilled my goals. I hope to stay happy and love deeply.
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