A real women’s woman.
When we meet she has just announced that Mercedes-Benz South Africa is the new title sponsor of what were formerly known as Joburg Fashion Week, Cape Town Fashion Week and Africa Fashion Week. She said in her speech that this collaboration would have an important bearing on our economy and further contribute to our standing in the international fashion world.
I ask if this new business relationship is her doing. She doesn’t answer directly. Too modest, I think. But I have no doubt that her business savvy and diplomatic manner were influential during the negotiations with Mercedes-Benz.
Moloi-Motsepe quotes fashion icon Coco Chanel when I ask about the new relationship: “To achieve great things, we must first dream.”
And for her, it’s a dream come true, one she believes will ” take our business forward in leaps and bounds.”
It is not the end of the road though. She remains dedicated to developing the local fashion industry. And it’s not the bright lights and fame she’s after.
She explains: “It is really about wanting to help uplift the lives of women. I want opportunities created to help women find sustainable jobs. Most of the people involved in fashion – seamstresses, models, make-up artists – are women. From my work as a doctor, I understand that the health of women who are not economically empowered is jeopardised. And in terms of who is poor in this country, women are at the bottom of the pile.”
When she left medicine 10 years ago , she became chair of the Motsepe Family Foundation she and her husband, businessman Patrice Motsepe, founded. The foundation is, according to its website, “committed to improving the living conditions and lifestyles of poor, unemployed and marginalised persons”.
Her medical work, she says, taught her about hard work, leadership and being part of a team. She puts these skills to use at the foundation where Moloi-Motsepe, a mother of three sons, focuses on girls’ and women’s health education.
She understands the enormous benefit of looking after women’s health. Women are the biggest consumers of healthcare, and when they are healthy, they are more productive at work and give birth to healthy children. Healthy children have a better chance of surviving childhood and tend to do better at school.
But why did she choose fashion as a vehicle for development?
“I love fashion. I have always been interested [in it]. I like expressing myself with what I wear. It’s playful and fun.”
Moloi-Motsepe, whose style was influenced by her mother, a nursing sister, is an ambassador of diverse South African fashion design.
“Some of our designers are creating ethnic designs, while others are more influenced by Europe but will add an African flavour to a design. There is always a local twist to highlight our uniqueness.
“[The company] has grown so much over the years. We have promoted designers internationally. We have helped designers improve their art and their business skills.”
An improved fashion industry, means there will be more sustainable jobs for women.
- Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg at Hyde Park Corner ends tomorrow