Modise wears: dress, from the Philippines, designer unknown; shoes, Karen Millen & neckpiece, Kikomba by Cristiana Mimmi
Modise wears: dress, from the Philippines, designer unknown; shoes, Karen Millen & neckpiece, Kikomba by Cristiana Mimmi
Image: Steve Tanchel/Red Hot Ops

Entrepreneurship activist Matsi Modise is refined, charming, and has a truly enviable CV. Modise is the founding CEO of Furaha Afrika Holdings, was formerly the national executive director of the South African Black Entrepreneurs Forum, and makes use of her current leadership position at Simodisa to champion South African startups. It’s fitting, then, that her personal aesthetic is built on simple, elegant essentials, accented by African-inspired detail. “It’s prim and proper, with a blast of Africa,” Modise says of her style. “Especially when I travel abroad, I always want to have a piece of Africa on me, so that people are never mistaken about where I’m from.”

In keeping with her professional mission, Modise always elects to shop locally when she can, and is particularly fond of bold, distinctive neckpieces — perhaps because people often compliment her long, regal neck. The effect is effortless and understated, but communicates her personality, which is important to her. “Dressing up, for me, is how I make myself feel good. It’s not about what the world is going to observe, or what people are going to say — it’s just about how I feel,” Modise says. “You have to take pride in yourself and in how you present yourself. I always say to the ladies at the office: whatever you project is a reflection of you, as a person. Always put your best foot forward.”


Can you remember the first item of clothing you were excited to own? I have this thing for buying previously loved items, and I got this dress when I was in London, when I went into a second-hand shop. It is a cerise dress, and it was just so flattering.

Do you have a style icon? Khanyi Dhlomo. She’s always had this timeless class and grace about her. And my mother: she’s such a lady, very graceful. She would always say, “Even if you don’t have a cent in your pocket, you must always look like a million dollars.”

Are there any designers who you find really exciting at the moment? I love Kisua. I love the variety, and how they curate African couture from across the continent. In terms of jewellery, there’s a brand called Elizabeth Morr — it has very African neckpieces. I also love Henriette Botha.

The best style advice you’ve ever given or received? You are beautiful. You don’t have to wear makeup: you don’t have to do anything.

Is there anything that you’re listening to or reading right now that you’re really enjoying? I’m loving Oskar Schuster. He has such soothing music. It’s classical, and it has a sense of nostalgia. It makes you feel like you are in a movie. I’m reading a lot at the moment. I find Chinua Achebe very exciting, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. And then, I’m always reading about technology disruptions and innovations, because that’s my space.

The last item you bought and loved? A piece of Elizabeth Morr jewellery by Lebo Mojaki-Mnisi I bought at 44 Stanley. When I saw this piece, I thought: “It has me written all over it.” It’s a signature piece — it has its own personality.

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