Bernhard Willhelm

The thing about Bernhard Willhelm’s shows is that the audience tends to be just as outlandish as whatever strolls down the runway. Maybe it’s the crowd, which is usually sprinkled with a good amount of friends and well-wishers, who happily roll out in the more festive get-ups, or the editors, always slaves to the occasion-appropriate. Whatever the case, the audience was an explosion of volumes, colors, patterns and sculptural coifs. Out of the same feeling of obligation, I piled on some tribal jewelry, but then decided to shed a few, inexplicably.

It turns out my instincts were right. On the runway, Bernhard offered a surprisingly pared-down version of his signature mish-mash. Sure, there was still enough to outfit Bjork for at least a week, but for the most part, the emphasis was on beautiful tie-dye dresses and surprisingly chic jumpsuits. Lest we think he’s going mainstream, he added some towering leaf-and-branch headdresses, but it seemed more from force of habit than anything else. And they didn’t dispel the soft, playful, even sophisticated effort in the clothing. On the way out, the crowd was in a daze, examining their cocoons of fabric with bewilderment. I suppose it’s not a great feeling to go from au courant to démodé in the span of a runway show, but that’s the risk we take for going out on a limb (where those leaves and branches must have come from).

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