Held in the upstairs gallery of La Bourse, where the Tranoï tradeshow had claimed the whole first floor, Bernhard Wilhelm’s summer 2013 presentation told the narrative of down on their luck men who, mentally suffering, whose tattered and torn garments looked as if they’d been through war. Slowed down at first with a mass of people who advanced tentatively around a not yet visible roadblock ahead, we were confronted with a figure, slouched in a chair with his back to us, seemingly unconscious. Clearly a fruit of the mind of Willhelm, the white face and bogus prints all mixed together could not have been concocted by any other.
The tattered garments, created by knotting together scraps of jersey or denim, made the scene look like the aftermath of a battle. The models, sprawled on the floor, leaning in corners, or standing, oblivious to the crowds around them as if suffering from shell shock. Referencing military uniforms and accessories, the war theme had its more literal moments. But the tragedy was contrasted with beautifully textural ruffled sleeves and prints on satin of interiors with gold leafed moldings. Was this the ‘before’?
While an artistically provocative presentation, the collection was disconnected from reality. Not in an off-trend way, because Willhelm has never been one to follow trends, but in the sense that a lot of what was shown were only remnants of what the garment used to be. The models interpreted this concept well by not reacting to the commotion and camera flashes. Without holding back, for the sake of not compromising the impact of the show, the whole run through was a blur of color and pattern. Afterwards, a feeling of ‘what just happened here’ overcame you. It did leave an impression, and lasting images that were aided by the setting and acting. But all that aside, the presentation’s striking effect was mostly thanks to the expressiveness of the clothes.
- Lee Anderson, Parisian Correspondent
Designer website: www.bernhard-willhelm.com