Keneilwe Mothoa takes her masterful eye for design and lends it to interiors and classic fashion in equal measure
Words: Tshiamo Seape
Photography: Obakeng Molepe
Keneilwe Mothoa makes a living creating beauty. An established Interior designer by training, and fashion expert by passion, the Johannesburg native and Prime Obsession co-founder, has made a career out of making people, things, and spaces look great. We were lucky enough to pin her down and get some insight into the life of a local talent worthy of your attention.
CSA: What are you up to right now – what’s keeping you busy?
Keneilwe: Personally, I’m looking into doing a furniture range, specifically chairs. I am trying to put myself on the map as an interior designer because people don’t actually really know this lol.
Where did you meet your business partner, Shelley, and how did you come to working with her?
We met in Varsity (University of Johannesburg) and our friendship just formed from us going out to buy lunch. We started getting compliments from peers and lecturers encouraging us to do something about our style, that’s when we formed a partnership and Prime Obsession was born.
Do you and Shelly collaborate outside of fashion?
Yes, we do. We create content for brands for their social media platforms.
Where do you source the clothes you sell at Prime Obsession?
Our previously loved pieces (thrift) we source them around JHB CBD mostly, but we are currently remodelling the brand and are producing our own.
Photography: Themba Mbuyisa
You clearly enjoy thrifting. Does the concept translate to the world of interior design?
Yes definitely, I’m very budget conscious, I would rather DIY and I’m currently looking for some cool chairs in charity shops/ pawn shops. Things don’t have to be expensive to look expensive and I believe old furniture is stronger because of the quality of the materials and treatment used.
How do you think social media/bloggers have influenced the industry?
Bloggers have opened up doors to a new world, a world we all dream of, working from home or your fave coffee shop. They have proven to S.A that this is an actual job that earns you an income and the industry is opening up to it now.
Influencers possess the power of persuasion which is why brands work with them a lot, and again they have proven to the industry that you don’t have to be a well known public figure to make the pots to be done – it’s happening. It’s just a matter of the brands taking the people seriously and paying what is due. This is currently the biggest form of advertising on social media.
I noticed you’ve worked with Papa Petite of 2ManySiblings – are you looking to expand your brand or collaborate with other artists across the continent?
Yes, it’s always beautiful doing collabs with other artists from Africa and I want to do more of that, and not only in fashion or interior design but other fields as well.
Who is the coolest person you’ve ever met?
I have met a few and had brief chats with a few: Warren Masemola, Thapelo Mokoena, Yasmin Furmie and Jackie Burger, these people have love and passion for what they do and this inspires me to be a better person in my practice.
Where do you see the Prime Obsession in 5 years – can we expect a Keneilwe signature collection?
In 5 years we hope to reach the international scale, showcasing abroad with the big names in the fashion industry and also exploring the interior design side of our lives and merging it with fashion and yes you can expect a Keneilwe and a Shelley signature collection.
Biggest career accomplishment?
Seeing one of the stores I designed come to life, that was my biggest moment in interior design and in Fashion all the three shows we did x2 for Kulture fashion spaces and the Experience AFI it just goes to show that people are rooting for you and want to see you do great things and the amount of support we receive is amazing just from someone just sending a private message saying “I hope you kill it tonight” is amazing and that is when you push yourself.
What’s your favourite thing about Shelley?
I love the commitment Shelley has and the ability to think out of the box.
What’s the best style advice she’s given you?
Worst fashion trend in history?
I don’t think there is ever a bad trend it’s a matter of you knowing whether it is suitable for you or Nah, lol.
What’s the last thing you’ve bought?
Vases for my little bookshelf that doesn’t have a lot of books.
Every girl should have at least one [add here] in her closet.
Sexy as hell pair of jeans….my go to always
What’s your favourite item in your wardrobe?
Hmmmm I have a few.
- My Calvin Klein biker Jacket, I’m always wearing it.
- I have this boxy Cos coat also
- My Zara kitten sock ankle boot, I die for them. 3cm off the floor is my vibe lol.
Instagram crush: (your online style muse)
Ranti Onayemi- Blanchard ( @rantiinreview) obsessed with her currently.
Best line said by anyone ever:
“Be sure to impress yourself and God before anyone else”- Mama
The ultimate collaboration in world history would be:
Phillipe Starck and Chanel- for me.
The ability to convince people that they need what they don’t need- persuasion.