Freedom, independence and self-expression, with a bit of exhibitionism and a lot of humour, have been at the heart of the German-born, now LA-based fashion designer’s creative activity since the launch of his brand in Paris in 1999, founded with Jutta Kraus only one year after receiving his diploma from the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Antwerp. The French capital was home for the designer for ten years before he decided to move to California with his small team, where he now lives, designs and collects his beloved cactuses, possibly even more removed from the fashion mainstream than before, and not only in the geographical sense. Whilst maintaining a showroom in Paris, Willhelm has been eschewing traditional catwalks for a long time now both in terms of model casting and performance, always fostering diversity and organising alternative presentations such as dance shows. This tendency was confirmed by his AW15 collection, presented as part of his exhibition at Los Angeles MOCA Bernhard Willhelm 3000: When Fashion Shows the Danger Then Fashion Is The Danger, a reflection on concepts related to fashion, including sexuality and consumerism, expressed through different media.
From the outside, it might seem that, to Willhelm, walking the line between art and fashion and maintaining a perfect balance between conceptualism and irony come as easily as being naked on a beach in Topanga, but it wouldn’t last if it wasn’t built on a solid foundation of sartorial craftsmanship, hard work and sophisticated cultural understanding. We asked the designer to unveil the thoughts behind his latest collection, The Magic Potato, and how the US is influencing his creativity.