These local creatives will supply their handmade cushions to H&M soon – here’s what else to expect

Business Insider SA
Founder of Neimil Lubabalo Mxalisa (left) and Kene
Founder of Neimil Lubabalo Mxalisa (left) and Keneilwe Mothao (right) (Supplied)

  • H&M has partnered with local lifestyle brand Neimil and will sell its items in its Sandton City, Menlyn Park and V&A Waterfront stores as of 4 November.  
  • The brand, founded by Keneilwe Mothao and Lubabalo Mxalisa will offer scatter cushions, cushion covers, rugs/mats, cosmetic pouches, placemats and tote bags. 
  • 100% of the proceeds from the collection will go to Neimil, and H&M will not take any profit from the sales. 
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Neimil, a South African lifestyle brand, has collaborated with H&M Home and will supply some of its handcrafted items to select stores in South Africa.   

The brand, which was founded by designer Keneilwe Mothao and photographer Lubabalo Mxalisa, in 2018 mainly focuses on interior design, accessories, art and fashion.   

Neimil founders (Supplied)
Founders of Neimil Keneilwe Mothao (left) and Lubabalo Mxalisa (right) (Supplied)

In 2018, Mothao and Mxalisa wanted to look at ways to merge their love for design and photography, to create something they both loved.

“We had just moved in together and we spent most of our time finding ways to be better creatives,” said the pair.

At the time, Mothao, who studied interior design at UJ, had developed a keen interest in sewing and knitting.

Mxalisa, on the other hand, had left the private banking world to focus on his love for photography and to further his career in the creative industry.

“We wanted to explore our different career paths and merge them to see what we could create,” said the business partners. And that’s how the Neimil brand came about.

With her design knowledge, Mothao helped create the handcrafted products sold under the brand, from scatter cushions and art to interior design services.

Neimil products (Supplied)
Neimil products (Supplied)


H&M partnership

At the end of September this year, H&M announced the collaboration with Neimil, a partnership that will allow customers to buy the brand’s handcrafted items in its Sandton City, Menlyn Park, and V&A Waterfront stores from 4 November this year.  

“Through this partnership, H&M aims to support small business owners and promote the local design industry within South Africa.

“The Neimil brand is about creative freedom and expression and being true and authentic,” said Country Manager at H&M South Africa Caroline Nelson.

Neimil Cushion (Supplied)
Neimil Cushion (Supplied)

The items in the collection include scatter cushions, cushion covers, rugs/mats, cosmetic pouches, placemats and tote bags – that H&M has produced locally – featuring two of the brand’s illustrations.

Totebag (Supplied)
Totebag (Supplied)

According to Mothao, the techniques used for the cushion covers and pouches are called punch needling and for the rugs/mats it is tufting.

Both techniques give the same end result of tight wool coils that are gathered to create a soft and textured piece. The materials used are a vast range of wools and yarns on a linen backing.


“The idea for this collection is derived from one of our pieces called the “Batho scatter”,” said the Mothao.  “It is a collection about bringing people together and celebrating the differences we have as people; hence the multi-coloured pieces that have human-like silhouettes.”

Batho Nude Scatter Cushion (Neimil)

The items have two colour palates inspired by various parts of the country as well as its cultures. The first palate, which consists of terracotta, creams and mustards was inspired by “rich hues of the Mpumalanga landscapes, the sunset and the soil,” she said.  

Batho Scatter Cushion (Neimil)

The other colour palate, on the other hand, “is a fresh and vibrant one inspired by the Pedi tribe with its rich colours like pinks and yellows with a contrast of pastel and saturated colours,” she added.

Giving back

Mxalisa and Mothao not only want to grow their business but are also focused on growing other small businesses by sourcing material locally and working with older generations of women who still need to provide for their families.

“For us it’s not only about putting money in their pockets but also to help these women better understand design and how they can improve their products to sell to their communities.

“Teaching is a way of uplifting someone so that when you are not there to guide them anymore, they are able to move forward and have learnt a new set of skills,” said the brand owners.

The business partners aim to expand the brands product offering. They want to include ceramics, mirrors and furniture on the home and interior end and create ready-to-wear items in future as well.

According to Nelson, 100% of the proceeds from this collection will be received by Neimil. H&M will not take any profit from the sales.

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