Refilwe Mokate.
Refilwe Mokate.
Image: Simz Mkhwanazi

Refilwe Mokate starts to laugh — her trademark wholehearted and infectious laugh — as she describes getting kitted out in safety boots, a hard hat, and a “onesie” (overall), as she calls it, to go kilometres down into the earth at South Deep gold mine. We’re talking dressing the part in the corporate world, and suddenly we’ve veered off from the power of a good black dress to the crazy (and decidedly not chic) gear she’s had to wear for the job over the years.

On the day we meet in Sandton, she’s in a distinctly less industrial little black number, complete with her mom’s heels (luckily, they share a shoe size), Gucci watch, and a fire-engine-red Louis Vuitton Passy GM bag. In fact, “I think I’d save it in a fire,” Mokate says of the holdall.

The thing is, it’s not immediately evident — unless you’re well versed in the leathers the high-end brands use — that you’re looking at an LV. “I like nice, quiet designs — not things that are monogrammed to hell or that make me look like I’m someone’s brand ambassador,” she says, adding, with a smile, “But who doesn’t want a red bag? It’s a classic.”

Mokate has had the Passy for years. “It was my first big-girl purchase,” she says. When she bought it, she was working at JP Morgan, in the investment-banking division.

After that, and having completed her MBA at Insead Business School, she co-founded Dew Partners — where she and her team advise clients on strategy, capital raising, mergers and acquisitions, investment, and the like.

“Clients take you seriously when you dress properly and expect you to be well turned out

Mokate’s job necessitates professionalism when it comes to attire. “Clients take you seriously when you dress properly and expect you to be well turned out,” she says. “I inherited a love for quality and investing in good things from my mom, of bags and footwear especially. She still has shoes she bought decades ago.” That’s not to say she isn’t a fan of, say, a sexy blouse, or a jaunty coat made of African print, but she’s judicious in her sartorial choices. “I’m totally not a gratuitous shopper,” she says, “but, I mean, a pretty dress! How could I resist?” she adds, with another laugh.

MOKATE’S STYLE NOTES

Next bucket-list destination? Japan. Or Salvador, in Brazil.

Luxury item you’d take to a desert island? A good lip balm or gloss.

Dream haute couture designer? I once tried on an Oscar de la Renta gown and was hooked. The brand creates feminine yet dramatic outfits, and if you’re going to do couture, you’ve got to make a statement, right?

Best style advice? When you’re walking out the door, take off the last thing you put on (unless it’s your dress, obviously). You don’t need that belt, scarf, or necklace.

Worst style faux pas? I was a teenager in the 1990s. It was all a hot mess, but the oversized T-shirts and denim skorts deserve a special mention.

- From the December edition of Wanted.

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