A Colorful Coming of Age

Bernhard Willhelm Celebrates a Decade in Design

German-born, Antwerp-trained fashion designer Bernhard Willhelm has shocked, surprised and delighted many a jaded fashionista over the past ten years with his charmingly off-the-wall collections. Despite a number of signature obsessions—sportswear, light cotton knits, eye-popping prints and absurdly oversized silhouettes—he has never been shy of reaching for wildcard references in his collections, appropriating everything from superheroes and dinosaurs to rave culture and traditional Black Forest lederhosen. Willhelm is a keen collaborator: as well as designing all the collections in tandem with creative partner Jutta Kraus, he has worked on costumes for Björk’s 2008 Volta tour, a range of sunglasses with Berlin eyewear brand MYKITA, and shoes and sandals with Camper. Willhelm has also turned heads with a series of immersive installations-cum-fashion shows with Taiyo and Nico, the Swiss artist duo responsible for his 2005 “Red Eye Tiger” lookbook and 2006 “Cardboard Mountain” womenswear show. In the past few years, perhaps with a hint of misty-eyed nostalgia, he has mounted two retrospective exhibitions: a veritable extravaganza, also designed with Taiyo & Nico, at Antwerp’s Mode Museum in 2007, and, in early 2010, a tenth anniversary show at the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands. Drawing a significant line under his work from 1999—2009, a 500-page book, Bernhard Willhelm and Jutta Kraus, is finally available in the US this month from NAI Publishers.

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