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hl next level 2018: fashion and interior designer shelley mokoena of prime obsession

Trevor Stuurman


Shelley Mokoena  and Keneilwe Mothoa, who met while they were studying interior design, started selling thrift clothes on campus before founding Prime Obsession, a minimalist clothing and interiors line that Vogue recently said is ‘changing the look of South African fashion’. They’ve collaborated with Calvin Klein and Country Road, and are quickly becoming Instagram sensations. We are keeping a very keen eye on everything this exceptionally talented design duo come up with.

how did you get started?

Prime Obsession started when my business partner Keneilwe and I were both studying interior design at the University of Johannesburg. We started selling thrift clothing on social media and now we produce our own clothing.

did you always want to be doing what you’re doing now?

Yes. I’ve always loved fashion and I always had an interest in architecture and buildings and a keen eye for detail and just putting things together to make them work visually so I am happy to be doing what I am doing.

do you have particular favourites among the works you’ve created?

Yes, I have a few pieces that I like but I think all the work I have created is very memorable and reflects a different point in my life that I was in.

I like the hats we made for our first ever exhibition and the tassel dress from our AW17 collection. These pieces are very intricate and immediately grab your attention but there was also a broader meaning and reference behind the individual collections.

what has been your defining career moment to date?

I think opening up our first store was an amazing moment for me – being able to hire other youth and contributing to job creation was kind of a big deal for me. Also having worked with so many internationally recognised brands, such as Calvin Klein and being featured in top publications such as Vogue.

creatives on your radar

Neo Mahlangu, Tshepo Sealetsa, Kgaugelo Rakgwale and Ssanyu Sematimba 

are there any artists you look up to?

I respect a lot of artists and their craft but I genuinely do not look up to anyone.

where do you find your inspiration?

The streets, the Internet, the places I visit and some of the people I surround myself with.

what is your earliest visual memory?

Posters all over my bedroom wall filled with sketches and anything interesting that I could rip out of a magazine. I even wrote/drew on the actual walls.

which places would you recommend people visit, and why?

I think people should generally visit places more out of their comfort zone. It opens you up to so much and you see things in a different light. I know it is something I want to explore more of as well.

what’s the oddest piece of art you’ve ever seen?

It’s actually quite recent. A sculpture called ‘Graham’ created by Patricia Piccinini to encourage road safety in Australia. I saw it on the Internet a few times, it was odd.

what are you working on at the moment?

Our summer collection and other ventures that will be revealed in due course.

Learn all about the game changers who are taking things to the Next Level in our #HLNEXTLEVEL2018  issue.