Words: Aluwani Ratshiungo | Visual Director: Ricardo Marcus Knipe | Graphics Art Director: Luke Bennet | Styling: Siyabonga Beyile | Director of Videography: Nic Rawhani | Production Coordinator: Simbongile Ndlangisa | Make-Up: Ayanda Shabangu
1.the state or time of greatest vigour or success in a person’s life. “you’re in the prime of life”
Keneilwe Mothoa and Shelley Mokoena pose effortlessly in front of the camera hardly needing any direction thanks to their palpable chemistry. They navigate around each other’s bodies with preternatural ease and couldn’t be more in sync. Posing with every inch of their bodies, the garments come alive as they wrap around and fall off their subtly contorted limbs.
The 24-year-olds met and instantly hit it off while studying Interior Design at the University of Johannesburg a few years ago and have been best friends since. After realising they had a common love for fashion they founded Prime Obsession, a thrift store that sells chic and somewhat luxurious looking clothes. Since they consider themselves the target market for Prime Obsession, the clothes they sell are more in line with their personal style which is minimalistic and combines structural silhouettes offset by flowing elements.
We chatted to the style duo – who are undoubtedly approaching their prime – to find out about the challenges of having a physical store, what their jobs as interior designers entail and what sets them apart.
You both have day jobs as interior designers, where do you find the time to manage Prime Obsession?
Keneilwe Mothoa: When you really love doing something it will happen for you. You find the balance in everything. Yes, you come back from work and you’re tired, you still need to find the time even if it’s just 30 minutes or 1 hour.
Prime Obsession started on Instagram, now you also sell your clothes from the Work Shop New Town space. What are some of the challenges of having a brick and mortar store?
Shelley Mokoena: There’s a lot of challenges. With regards to being at Work Shop New Town, it’s a fairly new space, a lot of people don’t know about it so we’re at a point where we have to market ourselves. It’s not like there’s a lot of people coming in to buy clothing but it’s been great though. It’s being a great transition but we’re still on social media a lot because we still need to push.
Keneilwe: Yeah, lack of traffic is the biggest challenge.
So why are you still there?
Keneilwe: Cause we got the juice; we got the sauce! [Both laugh]
Wouldn’t you rather be in a place where there’s more foot traffic?
Keneilwe: We are looking but we can’t just move without anywhere else to go. It’s a process.
Shelley: It’s a process; you have to take correct steps and you need to think about a lot of things. It’s not just about moving to another space with a lot of traffic, those kinds of things involve money.
Keneilwe: like going to another store and having to refurnish it. Ehh guys it’s money.
What do you get up to on a daily basis when you say you’re at work?
[Both sigh and then chuckle]
Shelley: It depends on what job you’re working on but sometimes you have to go on-site, you have to check if the contractors are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Sometimes I do budgets…
Keneilwe: You do budgets? Yo!
Shelley: Ya, I do like everything. I work in a small company and it’s not like there’s someone that’s dedicated to doing budgets. I do everything from specification, sourcing, furniture; it’s a lot and it’s different on different days.
Keneilwe: Also, we work in different environments in the interior design field. Shelley is more in hospitality and residential. I’m in retail so I design retail stores. I work for a specific company and I basically do the same thing it’s just that I’m not on the financial side of things. I come up with the concepts, I source the materials and finishes and I do space planning. I basically do what an interior designer does. Shelley, you probably do more of construction?
Keneilwe: I don’t do none of that. I don’t fix plans, I get the plan fixed. There’s someone who deals specifically with the property side of things.
What do you enjoy the most about what you do?
Shelley: Prime Obsession doesn’t feel like work to me. Coming to a shoot is fun. Styling a shoot or being part of a shoot, picking out clothing and putting together outfits is something I would do even if someone didn’t pay me. [Keneilwe side-eyes her and laughs] That’s how we started. On a random we’d be like ‘oh let’s have a shoot’ and we’d come up with a concept, contact a photographer that’s been wanting to work with us or whatever and be like ‘Yo, let’s shoot.” We’d shoot from morning to night but it’s fun, it doesn’t feel like a lot of work.
Something that’s really evident is the strong bond between you. As much as you’re collaborators and business partners, it’s easy to see that you’re close. I find it interesting because we live in a world where women are always pitted against each other and there’s this stereotype that women can’t get along. What are your thoughts on that?
Keneilwe: Look, we’re not perfect. People look at us on pictures, videos and they think it’s all perfect but we have our days where we just hash it out and argue and people cry in the midst. Some cry more than others…
Who cries more?
Keneilwe: Shelley. She’s the crier. But then we hash it out and we talk about it and we make the things to be done. We do have our ups and downs but we work through it. Like you said, people believe that women don’t like each other and all that, it’s not all true. Some of us are different.
Besides the crying, what else would you say are the major differences between you two?
Keneilwe: I’m the talker.
Shelley: She’s more of a talker than me. I’m more calm and she’s like super out there.
Keneilwe: She’s not calm when she’s with me! When she meets new people she’s initially reserved and then she lets loose. When we’re together, it’s balanced. We complement each other’s personalities.
What other differences are there?
Keneilwe: Well… [Both think about the answer for a very long time]
Okay, I guess you are not that different then. Who’s your style crush?
Look 1: Shelley and Keneilwe wear TN Collectiv
Look 2: Shelley and Keneilwe wear adidas Originals
Look 3: Shelley and Keneilwe wear dress from TopShop x Asanda Sizani, sneakers from adidas Originals and sunglasses from Rayban SA.