I’ve been sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for this launch to happen. Sheila-Madge has designed a number of wonderful collections, her latest Bali Ha’i being her first wedding collection. It is only apt that the ever so talented Bernard Brand photographed this collection and having seen it myself I applaud him for doing it justice. The entire team was just perfect. I hope you have a cup of coffee ready because this is quite a hefty post. Sheila-Madge was kind enough to be the very first person I ever have a Q&A with on the blog. Eeeeep! Excited much? Read all about what inspires her, her thoughts on fashion and lastly a little info on what she’ll be up to next.
About the collection
Bali Ha’i is a show tune from the film South Pacific. It refers to a mystical island, visible, but unreachable. The character, “Bloody Mary”, lures the soldiers of South Pacific into the Utopian of the unknown. Sheila-Madge created a range that reflects the romanticism within all things mysterious, enticing the wearer to step into a dreamy reality between past and present, between minimal and frivolous.
Plunge necklines, raised waists and haunting traces of beading, delicately mimic the whimsical, airy state of a dreamscape. Sheer fabrics in off-white are effortless whispers and strong silhouettes shape into textured clouds, just as the sea and sky come together into a nihility.
Q&A with Sheila-Madge Bakker
Q | Did you naturally gravitate to fashion as a career or did you have a big ‘Aha’ moment?
A| I must admit that I did have one of those typical made-the-barbie-clothing types of childhoods. My best friend Bernette Bergenthuin and I used to dress up in my mother and grandmother’s wedding dresses and parade around like queens. But then came a time when I wanted to scratch in the dirt to find treasures and minerals; fashion and frills long forgotten. But it wasn’t long before I secretly started collecting Vogue magazines. Naturally, the magazine industry was the obvious career choice, but after getting my degree in Publishing I started my degree in fashion and I was hooked for life.
Q | You tend to draw inspiration from various elements in nature, music, and art. What would you say was the biggest inspiration for Bali Ha’i in terms of the textures you’ve explored?
A | My greatest and best and favourite most fantastic inspiration in the whole world is the ocean. Somehow it creeps up in all my work. The song is also on an island in the ocean, sparkling waters etc. the feather tulle dress has little feather coral gardens with pearl fishes hiding within. The more vintage looking dresses have V-shapes like 20’s swimsuits. Ocean ocean ocean!!!
Q | It seems that most of your collections usually include a narrative. Is this just how you conceptualise or how does this type of storytelling fit into your work?
A | I believe strongly in 90% research/prep and 10% execution. Now, you must surely see that my designs are really time-consuming (with all the texture and beading etc), which just illustrates how long I take to conceptualize. I look at pictures, draw sketches, then leave it to brew in the back of my mind. The design process is very organic and one must give room for change. The original idea or picture sometimes turn out completely different to the end-product. So yes. By the time the product is done, it has its own story.
Q | What kind of bride would feel comfortable wearing your dresses?
A | I could easily give you a list of adjectives describing the bride wearing my designs, but I think that would mean that there would be a kind of dress I will never make, and I want to make it all! From minimalist slip-dress to the biggest meringue with bows and flowers and ribbon and everything else. In other words, if you don’t feel comfortable we work it till you are comfortable. Ha!
Q | Are all of your designs one of a kind?
A | Up to this point in time, my designs have been yes. With the Bali Ha’i range, however, I do give the bride the choice- share the design and pay less, or pay more and it is exclusively yours. I understand that it is the bride’s special day and that she wants to look unique, but by making-to-order, the dress becomes a bit cheaper. This means that someone with a smaller budget can still wear a designer dress. And let’s be honest. There are millions of brides all over the world. Chances are no one will even know that someone else wore the same dress as you?!
Q | Has designing a wedding collection always been a part of the plan?
A | I love designing in detail. Wedding dresses are a sure way of doing that. Avant-garde/ beaded eveningwear will not sell as well in South Africa I think. The niche is very small and as “entry level” designer I do not have the capital to fund such extravagant projects. Maybe someday… I do also want to launch an “everyday wear” range by the end of the year, available to all!
Q | Trends versus timepieces.
A | Both.
Trends are trends for a reason. It looks so darn good. That’s why. Also, it is available. How many times have you seen something from some other continent and wished you could find it in South Africa? Trends make it possible for us to be able to. Rich or poor.
Timepieces are just as special. A coat that use to belong to your gran, or just a white t-shirt and jean. Classy!
Or just mix them up. Keep it interesting.
Q | You’re in a restaurant with blush pink velvet chairs, a neon sign, and your drinking champagne. Who would three people that inspire you dead or alive be that you would like to have with you?
A | My all time idol, Inge Beckmann. She is so elegant, interesting and intelligent (although I do not think she would like a pink restaurant all that much). The founder of Pinterest and the owner of Noma restaurant. And how could I have fun without my friends?! The restaurant would have to carry in a few more chairs.
Q | Anything you’re working on that we should look out for?
If you’d like to read more about Sheila-Madge, have a look at this great interview with her on Show Me.