We talk to designer Keneilwe Mothoa of Neimil, a local lifestyle brand that focuses on interiors, fashion and art, in celebration of National Women’s Day 2021.

National Women’s Day is coming up; can you share a message of hope and inspiration for South African women?

Do not ever doubt yourself or the choices you make, stay patient and trust in your journey. You can do it and you will do it, whatever “it” might be.

What is the golden thread that bonds women in your mind?

The ability to nurture and embrace each other, women are very special beings that are both gentle and strong; I see these traits in the women that are in my life.

As a creative woman, what have you found the challenges to be, and how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is constantly having to prove your worth and or that you are equal to the opposite sex.

SA women you admire and why?

Nunu Ntshingila. She exudes confidence and is an absolute powerhouse. She is all about empowering women and girls and I think her moves in the corporate world are a great example of women being just as able to do it all.

Keneilwe in 2021, what has changed and how do you define yourself?

I have become more mature about the way I handle situations and in so doing I am able to manage other peoples expectations of me and I am more lenient on myself when I do make mistakes or when I feel like I did not meet a goal that I set.

Tell us all about Neimil?

Neimil is a local lifestyle brand that focuses on interiors, fashion and art. It started in 2018 as a women’s wear brand that was designing swimwear. We took a break due to some challenges as well as to understand what we wanted the brand to be.

Neimil now is about embracing individuality, telling authentic stories and creating product that each individual can be proud to have. There is no particular meaning to the name, it does however have a piece of my name Ke”Nei”lwe in it which means given.

Why tapestry? What is it about the art form that draws you to it?

It's about the craftsmanship that goes into creating the works. Creating something with your hands has an element of pureness and authenticity. Tapestry, looming, rug hooking sewing et al have always been prolific in Kwandebele, Mpumalanga, by men and women that use their hands to make their traditional attire like the “pepetu” Ndebele apron that is intricately embellished with beads or the carefully pleated traditional pedi dress “hele”, I am more intrigued by process of getting the final outcome and how that can be developed into various products to expand the idea from it being a generic, boxed piece of work.

Where do you find your creativity?

Greatest inspirations are the women around me that are constantly pushing boundaries. I truly believe I was meant to be in the creative industry. I was always leaning more towards the working with my hands side of life. I changed schools in Grade 10 because the school I was in was more focused on accounting and the likes and I just wanted fine art as a subject, most schools were full but I ended up being in a school that offered technical subjects, technical drawing being one of them, I knew this is what wanted to do; this later on influenced the idea of being in the field of architecture or interior design. Varsity them opened up a whole new world of possibilities. This industry is what I know, it is for me and I am for it.

Who have been mentors in your life and what have they instilled in you?

One of the people that have made a really positive impact in my life is Sandy Rogers who introduced me to the retail industry and taught me a lot in that regard. My gran Liza Mamonnyea Mothoa who is a pillar of strength in my life has taught me to have a positive outlook towards life and the challenges it brings.

Future plans for Neimil?

To be the next Selfridges, I always think blue sky and I think anything is absolutely possible.

Future plans for you in general?

To just take care of myself and live in the now.

Words to live by...

Try and try again, no door is ever permanently shut.

Any advice for young women or even little girls who aspire to do great things with their lives?

Honestly just go for it, explore your imagination, make your ideas come to life. If you don’t take the first step, no one is going to take it for you.

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