Featured: WAKE Designer Pieter Burger on Entrepreneurship, Duality and Collaboration

After starting his own fashion label at the age of 23 and winning SAFW Renault New Talent Search in 2014, WAKE founder Pieter Burger is asserting himself as both designer and entrepreneur. In his latest collection, Vagevuur, Pieter brings together the orthodoxy of iconic houndstooth with striking contemporary designs that reimagine African aesthetics. Pieter quickly chats to us about his latest range, collaboration, the WAKE woman and industry challenges. 

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You started WAKE in 2013 with Carla Roos at just 23 years old. Can you speak to us a bit about the challenges of being a young entrepreneur, particularly in the fashion industry, and what you’ve learned since then?

There are many challenges in the industry for a young designer, the predominant challenge is definitely finances. The industry is flooded with cheap, low quality imports and an uneducated market which makes it quite challenging to promote a brand. Availability of fabrics is another concern, designers often use the same fabric for their collections. Over the year I’ve learned to trust my gut and it’s seemed to pay off. 

You won the SAFW Renault New Talent search in 2014 – what impact has this had on your label?

Being the winner had a huge impact on the brand (and my life)…it propelled WAKE as a brand forward. Being acknowledged by influential people in the industry was definitely one of the highlights.

What inspired your newest collection, Vagevuur?

I have always been inspired by spirituality and eternity…the concept of life and death, good and bad, heaven and hell and the soul being trapped between the two worlds. To bring it to life and make it more coherent, the story grew into a group of dancers in a production.


Please tell us a little about the aesthetics of this collection?

My designs are simple…basic silhouettes and shapes. I like to put emphasis on bold prints and interesting fabrics. The basis of the collection was the bold hounds tooth, iconic in fashion. I wanted to have a sense of art in the collection and added Bianca’s illustrations to tell the story of duality.

Can you tell us about your collaboration with illustrator Bianca Brand. How did this come about or what prompted you to work together?

While working on conceptualising the collection, I came across Bianca Brand’s work. This specific art piece was the perfect visual to tell the story with the collection.

What process did you undertake putting Vagevuur together?

I always start with the story…the idea. I definitely play with the concept in my head for a while. The next step is to find the perfect fabric.  Only then, I apply the design before production of the collection.


What are some of your chief influences that inform your design?

Definitely the story, and then the person who will be wearing the pieces.

What kind of person do you envision wearing WAKE pieces? Who do you have in mind when putting together a collection?

An alternative, progressive, slightly conservative women who enjoys fashion but does not allow it to overpower her.

What can we expect from WAKE in the future?

When it comes to the future, I do not over-plan, but rather have WAKE take it’s own path.

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