Pretoria-based fashion designer Sheila-Madge Bakker has all of us dreaming about dancing the night away in one of her beautifully designed and elegantly mysterious wedding gowns.

With considered details and the use of whimsical soft and sheer fabrics, each dress is classically tailored to suit the unconventional bride. Simple, comfortable, yet exquisitely complicated, these dresses focus on enhancing each bride’s unique characteristics. Her latest range ‘Bali Ha’i‘ is named after a show tune from the film South Pacific and refers to a mystical island, visible, but unreachable. Instead of masking identities, Sheila-Madge embraces them. We find out more about the name behind the designs…

How do you get inspired daily?

Every day I get a song-of-the-day from someone special, that gets me going. If that doesn’t work I watch a documentary on the ocean. Just thinking of all those things living slowly in their monumental beauty and stillness while we are rushing up here, gives me a rush. Ah, the ocean!

Any advice for aspiring designers?

Remember that you are 90% business (wo)man and 10% designer. Embrace your surroundings, your upbringing, your background, your country and use them all to influence your designs. Forget about what the others are doing, do your own thing, no matter how ridiculous or outrages it may seem, – somewhere in the world there is someone that will give anything for it. You just need to find a way to target and reach that person. Persevere, have integrity, and as my dad always says ‘don’t just do it, go it!’.


What is your ultimate wedding don’t?

Brides not looking like themselves.

How did you get into bridal design?

I love designing in detail. My aesthetic naturally leans towards luxury design. Designing wedding dresses is a sure way of experimenting with opulence and techniques. I always want to say that more is more, but in the end I feel that anything well balanced is best, be it more or less. The great thing about wedding dresses is that you will get something of everything and believe me I want to try it all!

Who or what is your muse?

My muse changes colour with the weather. My muse can be calm or raging. My muse is a killer but allows people to ride on its back like kings. My muse is bothered by the moon and spits in the eye of a billion broken things. My muse is the reason why sailors curse and a siren sings.

What is your most cherished possession?

Some of my most cherished possessions are books. One day I shall have a gigantic library in my house. I have a first edition, signed copy of Cythna Letty ‘s botanical illustration book ‘Children of the Hours‘. It’s probably worth nothing but I really love it, the dainty flowers fill my heart with content. My most cherished possession(s) however, are my mother and grandmothers’ wedding dresses and tiara. They are just sentimental and beautiful.

Images courtesy of Sheila-Madge


Visit her website

Photo’s by: Bernard Brand

Make-Up by: Annice Roux


Then you may also be interested in reading:

Planning A Wedding? Start Here

Bohemian Luxury With Bo & Luca


Tammy Joubert has a particular interest in decor and architectural design trends and how they coexist with graphic design and art, especially in a South African context. When she’s not illustrating or painting, she enjoys exploring peculiar places in Cape Town, reading Afrikaans Poetry and the occasional glass of red wine.

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