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2018/8/8 Clothing ensemble, unisex, comprising 'FIGURES IN LANDSCAPE' dress, linen / sateen, Spring/Summer 2016 collection, designed by Bernhard Willhelm, made in Japan, 2016 and headpiece, plywood / wire, designed and made by Duane Paul, California, United States of America, 2016. Click to enlarge.

Dress, 'FIGURES IN LANDSCAPE' by Bernhard Willhelm and headpiece by Duane Paul

Made
Drawing from diverse cultural and stylistic influences, the fashion brand Bernhard Willhelm is renowned for its unisex garments, collaborations with artists and for working outside the mainstream of the fashion world.

This group of garments belongs to the Autumn/Winter 12-13, Autumn/Winter 15-16, Spring/Summer '15 and Spring/Summer '16 ranges. They are characterised by the use of shapes derived from folkloric, Asian, African and medieval designs and feature striking fabric patterns using tie dye, paint spots and embroidery. The outfits from the SS16 collection are accessorised with motorcycle-inspired denim boots and sandals from the label's debut shoe line and a crown-like helmet made of chicken wire and plywood by Caribbean/Californian artist, Duane Paul.

Bernhard Willhelm and Jutta Kraus use their fashion label to challenge fashion consumer culture and present a broader view of beauty and style. They aim to transcend the uniformity of the consumer culture by producing garments that are genuinely unisex, by referencing diverse cultures and historical periods and by collaborating with artists working in various media such as Bjork, Olaf Breuning and Carsten Fock. Although the label did participate in the Paris shows before its move to Los Angeles, it now launches collections in various innovative ways, such as via the museum exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, California in 2015. Willhelm believes that the age of the internet has rendered the traditional shows obsolete.

Willhelm states that he does not design only for the young and beautiful and uses 'real' people of various ethnicities in his publicity campaigns, including the fifty year old black, gay porn star, Cutler X. His interest in porn in the fashion realm goes beyond the use of models, as Willhelm explained in an article for Interview magazine, 'The Art of Sexualising Fashion' by the abovementioned Cutler X, published in September, 2015: "Usually, I start draping on a little doll…. I usually start working with my hands and a piece of fabric without a concrete idea and then I work around it…it's a very abstract way of actually starting a collection. A porn star also needs to get a feeling and that's why it's close to porn…you work around the body…". He also claims that in both porn and fashion, a sense of humour is essential.

While Willhelm is far from the only fashion designer to collaborate with artists and exhibit in museums, what makes his work distinctive is the use of multimedia to promote his ideas about fashion and consumerism. This, along with the deliberate referencing of porn and drawing upon diverse cultures for inspiration, accompanied by an irreverence towards the fashion establishment, makes the label truly unique.

Julie McFarland, MAAS volunteer, under the supervision of Glynis Jones, Curator, 2017

Summary

Object No.

2018/8/8

Object Statement

Clothing ensemble, unisex, comprising 'FIGURES IN LANDSCAPE' dress, linen / sateen, Spring/Summer 2016 collection, designed by Bernhard Willhelm, made in Japan, 2016 and headpiece, plywood / wire, designed and made by Duane Paul, California, United States of America, 2016

Physical Description

Asymmetric strap dress composed of tousled hazelnut and cream linen. Asymmetric hemline with high slit at front right leg and draped back. Piece of cream linen drapes from right shoulder back to left leg front. Blue and yellow sateen ribbon attached to left shoulder with two ribbon strands falling to below waist. Red embroidered bird motifs on back left shoulder, front centre and right hip. Yellow sateen bag with printed text 'LIFE WORLD LIBRARY / TROPICAL AFRICA' attached to left side with blue shoelaces. Loose yellow threads fall from sateen ribbon and bag. Patch pocket, hanging linen bananas and blue shoelaces at right back.

Dome shaped headpiece composed of plywood and wire. Curved piece of plywood attached to front of hat band. Plywood is painted in purple and green with a distressed finish. Chicken wire painted in pink and blue in sections. Rectangular piece of white pallet strapping attached to hat band front with coloured metal.

Production

Made

Notes

Willhelm has distinguished himself from his contemporaries in many ways with a label that represents a fusion of influences and beliefs about fashion. He aims to transcend the uniformity of the consumer culture by producing garments that are genuinely unisex, by referencing diverse cultures and historical periods and by collaborating with artists working in various media such as Bjork, Olaf Breuning and Carsten Fock.

Willhelm states that he does not design only for the young and beautiful and uses 'real' people of various ethnicities in his publicity campaigns, including the fifty year old black, gay porn star, Cutler X. His interest in porn in the fashion realm goes beyond the use of models, as Willhelm explained in an article for 'Interview' magazine, 'The Art of Sexualising Fashion' by the abovementioned Cutler X, published in September, 2015: "Usually, I start draping on a little doll…. I usually start working with my hands and a piece of fabric without a concrete idea and then I work around it...it's a very abstract way of actually starting a collection. A porn star also needs to get a feeling and that's why it's close to porn...you work around the body..." He also claims that in both porn and fashion, a sense of humour is essential.

History

Notes

Bernhard Willhelm was born in 1972 in Ulm, Germany. He and Jutta Kraus (collaborator and co-founder) attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and the University of Westminster, London and together launched the Bernhard Willhelm label in 1999, working from Europe until 2015, when they relocated to Los Angeles, California. Willhelm's eclectic, well-crafted designs, infused with a touch of humour and irony, quickly drew acclaim from the art and fashion worlds. The brand was awarded the Moet and Chandon Fashion award in September, 2001 and First Prize and the Accessory Prize from the ADNAM (Association Nationale pour le Development des Arts et de la Mode) in April 2005. These awards were followed by retrospectives at the Fashion Museum, Antwerp in 2007-2008 and the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands in 2009-10 and a multimedia exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2015. Willhelm also held the position as professor and head of the fashion department at the Royal Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna between 2009 and 2014.

Duane Paul is a Jamaican born visual artist who works in sculpture, painting, drawing and photography. He holds a BFA from Parsons School of Art and Design and is now based in Los Angeles. Of his collaboration with Willhelm he commented 'I had the pleasure to be invited to collaborate with designer Bernhard Willhelm and imagine Head Sculptures (hats, if you will) as well as Neck and Wrist Sculptures (cuffs/bracelets & Neck Jewelry, if you will) that would play with and have conversation with his new collection.'

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Bernhard Willhelm and Jutta Kraus, 2017

Acquisition Date

19 January 2018

Cite this Object

Harvard

Dress, 'FIGURES IN LANDSCAPE' by Bernhard Willhelm and headpiece by Duane Paul 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 18 April 2021, <https://ma.as/551670>

Wikipedia

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