20.06.17 by Aneeqah Samsodien
It shouldn’t be a surprise to know that the ever evolving mindsets and cultures of the new generation will eventually affect organisational structures. There are no skill sets in place to define an individual; we can be whoever we want, when we want. Resources are readily available with minimal effort needed. Luke Doman from corner store CPT talks to us about his perception of the culture and changing the anatomy of what makes a company work.
An Undergrad in English and Philosophy, Luke finds himself coaching post grad students at the Hasso Plattner institute of Design Thinking, a component of the UCT Graduate School of Business. The HPid school partners up with external entities like government departments and corporates, facilitating teams through real life challenges while providing them with tools that help them to collaborate and work as equals, to change their personal approaches to problem solving, while also teaching them the specific design thinking methodology.
Doman manages corner store CPT, located at 103 sir Lowry Road, the space that used to be home to Smith & Abrahams. Luke has trouble describing exactly what he does but rather chooses to see the store as his brand, his role being to fill in the gaps while driving everything forward. He manages the store and social media, styles shoots, does art direction and has more recently started dabbling in photography. He says that it was great working at S&A for Bradley Abrahams in particular, in terms of learning how to get things done, delegate and manage projects like hosting a launch party.
“When he wanted things done, you find a way to do it. Everyone did what Brad said.”
Corner store hosts it’s in-house brand along with three of Cape Town and South Africa’s most influential street culture brands, Twobop, Sol-Sol and Young and Lazy. The store has recently acquired the tailored goodness of local brand I&I, bringing something new.
“I think at this point, the context we live in and the way things work requires you to be more than a set something. It’s always going to be beneficial if you’re able to do a lot. This whole corporate world, the names and contracts don’t really align with what people actually do. The structures of companies haven’t caught up to the way companies actually work. Too many people benefit from that system, mostly people that don’t do a lot of shit have got some title and are getting paid a certain amount because of that title. People under them have valuable skills that are actually being used to fill in and doing a whole bunch of things that’s not in their job description, but because of their title they are only entitled to earning so much. More often than not the ones with the nice titles try to box those below them to ensure their own security. This is all stuff I’m experiencing very recently, I thought growing up would mean less drama and politics, but old people politics and drama is way uglier cuz its all directly attached to power and money.
The store is my baby and the voice of the store is mine – Luke
Do you think it’s a combination of the mindset and the old fashioned system?
If you look at who’s got the power, it’s going to be those who are in power at that point, probably perceived that they will benefit the most. They’ve been there for decades, not experiencing other environments and they probably don’t even understand how else things can be done. Things would need to change within the system for you to be able to work collaboratively without the hierarchy. It’s more about embodying the mindset of ‘let’s not talk about it and plan, let’s go in there and try and learn by trying.
“The measure is somebody that notices; that is the best that you can hope for”.
Your mindset feels different to the average educator.
I mean I’ve never believed in the hierarchy that traditionally exists in a classroom. Over and over you experience the ugly side of mediocrity, the self loathing, the dissatisfaction that emerges in the constant abuse of power, the unwillingness to understand students and engage with them on a human level, and more scarily, the profound apathy from mostly white men towards the kids they have been entrusted with. Obviously I don’t believe that it is the fault of the teachers, it’s a systemic thing, we don’t value the jobs of the people entrusted to raise the young people in our country. Also I can only speak of my own experience, a very privileged one, this shit doesn’t really even compare to the way things play out in areas where a archaic colonial structures have been imposed on entire peoples who relationships with knowledge and growth stretch far beyond the four walls of a classroom.
More specifically I feel it’s discouraging that people think they can’t do stuff, especially stuff that come with a touch of self consciousness, art and things like that. It’s simpler if you just let people do things and you find another way to measure their progress other than a number. In terms of learning and growth in these areas for me one of the key things is proximity and representation, showing that people who young people look up to, are not that different from them, just as scared, just a fragile. For me, space, time and encouragement is the most important thing we can offer young people when it comes to learning in these areas.
I played sport in school and you have all the support that you need in the world. You know all the jobs, you know all the good that sport does for you. Then on a Saturday morning, you get to play and everyone cheers for you and no one else gets that experience of doing what they like to do and have people cheer for you doing the same thing.
Luke Doman explains the Creativity stump
Luke explains that kids are not shown the possibilities of being creative. That studying drama can open avenues in sound, lighting and directing, not just acting. Yet we find that most children are treating their art class as a free period and we cannot blame them, but blame the system and structures for not giving creativity enough importance.
He describes the ideal learning opportunity; holiday workshops much like the Summer Camp held in February, hosted at Corner Store and developed by Luke and friend and artist Quaid Heneke AKA Queezy. This is just the beginning of transforming mindsets, what really needs to happen is that the space needs to be there for them all the time, free of judgement while fully understanding of how valuable being able to make stuff is.
When asked what the culture means to him, he believes that the culture is not something that is broadcasted all over social media by so-called ‘people for the culture’, but rather something that is deep-rooted in your will to create a better community and going and actually doing it. Out of the 100% of people who believe in the culture, only probably 10% actually affect it. He believes that the public views things at face value and finds many people who talk about inspiring youth do just that, talk. We need to start doing stuff!
“I see myself and the store being key in actually building that culture and actually engaging with younger people. Other people see the surface and just regurgitate or use the same language. For me this reinforces the idea that we are doing something authentic, doing it with pure intentions and not for profit. If everybody’s looking at us, adopting our language, then the perception of what’s going on in Cape Town has been framed by us and the way we talk about it. It’s not that hard to just hit us up and acknowledge what we’re doing and tell us you want to collaborate instead of taking our work and selling it to corporate without feeding us.”
One of the key things is to just do shit. Fail fast. Fail early, but learn by doing – Luke
To a lot of people, corners tore holds major influence to the youth and retail industry alike. Doman believes that it takes individuals or companies to deliberately restructure and then be thought leaders in the area. They do not have any incentives to change when everything has been going fine. They’re not worried about retribution and making sure that people get what they deserve but more about how to maximise their profits. He says that there needs to be a willingness to move away from the traditional hierarchy and work as equals across skill sets, disciplines and cultures.
Was your intention to stay in the background and what do you think about influencers?
The point was for me to stay in the background to a degree. As long as the dudes, my OGs, know, then that is satisfying enough. It’s frustrating sometimes as I feel that there are opportunities that in this city that I should be involved in and I feel like I am overlooked in that way.
I’m not trying to be an influencer; people think that we don’t see how the store has changed the language that every brand and person uses here. We do, it makes us happy but its also super frustrating when other homies are eating because of the combination of their privilege and access, and our work.
‘…And the fact that we are real friends here. We don’t hang out because our average outfits look better when we’re together”
We hang out every single day, not to go out, not because it’s convenient or you need someone to drink with. We chill under blankets and watch movies together, its real. I think I can be proud of the fact that we are leaders in the culture and that we still approach everything the same way. We do it ourselves, we find a way, we don’t have mad cash, but we have an attitude that trumps shit like that
What I want to see change in creative educational spaces is less giving stuff a number and marking and giving it a value, and more just dala.
He describes the urban culture in South Africa as obscured, where young people are spending their parent’s cash and being labelled as influencers. It is not relatable or real; it has a rippling effect and companies are jumping on board, recycling the same people over and over. The reason influencers have such a big impact is because of the immediate gratification that comes with it; people don’t want to dig deeper and don’t want to find out more.
“At it’s core, there is nothing wrong with it, but the way people use it and work with it is bullshit. If you’re an influencer with good ideas and intentions, why should you not be given the platform to help people? The problem is that stuff doesn’t quite land like that you know, kids look at people and think by copying those people they are aligning themselves with a way of thinking that makes them different or a baller or whatever when in reality they are just consuming kak that is being imposed onto them. There’s very little consideration for the processes or ways of thinking of these people, the actual important shit. I mean you’re dressing a way to make yourself seem different when in reality you’re a consumer like anyone else, you just look different. You think someone as intelligent a Travis Scott wants you to dress exactly like him? No, he wants you to be original, the two are not the same at all. This is exactly why we avoid using influencers. Our process is to find someone who is interesting, who speaks to people, without them even knowing who that person is. We’re trying to deliver a message visually and through storytelling, as clothing brand people do, not trying to leverage off the influence that someone’s mom bought them. Also, word to the moms making that money and all the others”.