Taking over the top floor of the opulent, marble floored 17th century Palais Brongniart, Bernhard Willhelm staged a spectacular presentation for his Spring/Summer 13 collection. As the audience explored they came across artistically positioned models dressed in his wild, expressive pieces. Half alive, half dead and some seemingly referencing classical sculpture, they held glass bottles containing images of themselves, raising questions of self image. Looking to create a dialogue, this season surrounding who his characters were and who they had become and in turn who he was both 'then and 'now', Willhelm, as always with his presentations, certainly did just that. This season the collection looked to his signatures of oversizeitsd silhouettes and contrasting colour, cords running throughout the material and a sense of decadence and decay, along with a sharp focus on print. The collection knowingly referenced his own impact and the impact of others on him in the world of avantgarde fashion, this being the 10 year anniversary of Bernhard Willhelm's label. The idea was to examine his position, where he had come from and where he wanted to go. Dazed Digital caught up with Bernhard backstage to discuss the conceptual nature of the presentation and the themes behind this season's collection...
Dazed Digital: What was the starting point for this seasons focus on print?
Bernhard Willhelm: For me, it was all about Gianni Versace in the 90s. Even someone like me still has a little fashion moment and that period was a real fashion moment. I started by going back and looking at the lookbooks that Bruce Weber created and it made me think how much I really liked that. I wanted to see how far I had grown in fashion and if I could use it. Obviously it was a big part of my life, Gaultier also but that is not so obvious for me anymore and I realised the pattern, the print and the overload, the mixing of almost impossible things was very important to me. We had some fun with that and with the silhouettes that we could create, but then also went back over Bernhard and what that meant.
DD: What elements of your work did you revisit?
Bernhard Willhelm: The cords were important, how my things are finished. The wash and how they are treated. The collection is made in Japan because they do such special things there with fabrics and treatments. I was interested in how you wash it, how you bleach it, how you over-print it and how all of that pulls a collection together. Now after being in fashion for ten years this is still a world I am discovering.
DD: Do you find it difficult to still be excited by fashion after working in such a directional way for ten years?
Bernhard Willhelm: Yes it is hard, because it's a world where you don't get much back. Of course, you work with your team and I am very lucky that we can do four collections a year but it's hard. You have to really be quite driven. I do of course get a great energy from it, I don't have to make everybody happy like some designers do and that is very freeing. That position that I have in fashion now I have been fighting for throughout my career, it's not total freedom, you never have that, but at least I can create pretty much whatever I feel like doing. I'm not too serious about it, I don't have to make everyone happy and I'm ok with that.
DD: What was your concept for this season's installation? The models look like they were dead, or dying?
Bernhard Willhelm: It was hopefully to do that, to leave people in doubt. Are they old, are they new? Are they dead or are they alive? Are they sleeping or are they awake? I wanted to create that world in-between, almost like the after after after-party, this kind of feeling. The future and the past. I wanted people to feel like they were in transition and realise it's the moments in-between when you are happy.