Sandiso Ngubane talks fashion and creativity with Kefilwe Mabote
‘If you told me seven years ago this is the woman I would have become, I probably wouldn’t have believed you,’ read the comment on Kefilwe Mabote’s Instagram post on the night this image consultant and social media influencer bagged the ‘Next Big Thing’ accolade at the recent SA Style Awards. Looking red-carpet-ready, she attended the awards in a pearl-embellished custom La Manche dress. But this mother of two doesn’t merely turn up the glamour factor when attending events; it’s part of her lifestyle.
Kefilwe’s Instagram page (which has over 485 000 followers) is a feast for any style-hungry eye, as she flaunts her immaculate personal style, combining luxury and department-store brands with equal dexterity. I sat down with this local style star to talk fashion and creativity, to learn more about her image-consulting work and her journey from being a graphic-design student to standing shoulder to shoulder with celebrities like Luthando Shosha as recipients of style accolades.
Who is Kefilwe, and how did you amass your following?
Kefilwe is a Soweto girl. I was born and bred in Moletsane. I went to school there, and only later decided to matriculate from The National School of the Arts. I’ve always known that I’m a creative person, but I couldn’t quite find where my passion lies. Before I learnt about the opportunities for expression with social media, I studied graphic design at Vega, BCom accounting sciences and image consulting.
When Instagram arrived on the scene, however, I saw an opportunity. Maybe this was where I could do business, because I love fashion. And, at the time, Instagram was still largely untapped.
What exactly did you want to achieve with Instagram?
I saw it as an opportunity to sell my image-consulting services. It was difficult at first, so I decided to start a blog – a collection of styling tips and tricks – and that’s when things really took off. Suddenly, brands approached me: retailers wanting me to show-case their clothes, hotels asking me to visit and share my experience with my fans. I decided early on to only work with brands I like and that gel with my personal brand.
Luxury and premium products naturally work well on my blog and social media, because I’ve positioned my business to talk to luxury. What I like is that, while there is some branding, I’ve ensured that I can do things my way and stay true to myself, to my followers and the brands I love.
How does your image consulting work?
I have private clients, which I don’t post about because I respect their privacy. There’s a lot of competition if you want to style for saturated markets like commercials and magazines, so I decided to take a different route and service private clients in the luxury space instead. There aren’t a lot of stylists in this country doing that.
It wasn’t easy at first, but luckily I had a corporate client that I’d worked with previously who contacted me when their customers needed my services. I partnered with them as a supplier and it made things easier. Now, my business is driven by word of mouth, although I am starting to collaborate with more companies and influencers as a branding exercise to attract new clients.
What services do I get as a client?
I offer wardrobe consulting and personal shopping. I sit down with my clients and assess where they need improvement. It’s a tailor-made service. There’s no one size fits all, so that first consultation is the most important bit.
Clients don’t all have the same budget, so we work around how much they want to spend. Not everyone needs a wardrobe update, some just need me to help them put looks together. At times, my clients are simply people who are too busy to organise their own wardrobes, so I manage that for them. It’s a dream job. I shop for a living. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
Your SA Style Awards acceptance speech included a mention of the negativity you face on social media. How do you handle the naysayers?
The award was a big moment of celebration for me, because it highlighted my accomplishments and the hard work that I’ve put in. It affirmed that I’m doing something right. And yet, all throughout my journey, I got a lot of negativity.
It’s quite hurtful when people say things about you that just aren’t true. I’ve been called materialistic and a host of other things. For me, it’s just about knowing yourself and doing what makes you happy. And, to be honest, what people say can’t hurt me if it isn’t the truth.
I saw an opportunity in the luxury space and I went for it. People can attack me for that, but I will forge ahead with my head held high.
This article first appeared in the March 2018 issue of Club Magazine.