Bernhard Willhelm in the City of Angels
The much-loved enfant terrible of fashion, designer Bernhard Willhelm, has never had a problem going against the grain and breaking with convention. During a recent visit to the MYKITA HAUS, the mastermind behind some of MYKITA’s most iconic designs spoke to MYKITA JOURNAL about his decision to move away from Paris, his fascination with pop culture and his new life in the City of Angels.
For most fashion designers Paris remains the undisputed global capital of fashion and is simply the place to be. In a surprising move last year, you decided to move your headquarters from Paris to LA. How come?
It all started with an experiment last year, when we went to Mexico for three months. Freedom has always been very important to me: freedom to create and to be. When I was in Antwerp, I always felt I had it, but in Paris at some point it was gone. In Paris you are in the global capital of fashion, you are very close to what you’re doing, and I felt it was time for me to get some distance. I just wanted to be somewhere else, change my views and get some new input. I wanted to feel free again.
Where to next?
We’ve been in Los Angeles for one year now. The entire team moved there and maybe we are going somewhere else; it’s possible. It was a very important discovery, that it’s possible. I’ve always joked about Jamaica. I always wanted to go to the jungle.
Did your fascination with pop culture play a role in your decision to move to LA?
Being in Los Angeles gives us access to an entire different world. We’re in touch with a lot of people from the entertainment industry. We did some stuff for a new R&B artist called Kelela and a party with Mykki Blanco at the end of October. That wouldn’t have been possible if we were in Paris.
The funny thing is that before moving to LA, I had only been there once. I was playing with the idea in my head for a while, but due to a surgery on my hand we had to stay longer in Paris. Then things just seemed to work out. When we arrived in LA no one really knew what to do. We were all kind of lost, but first we needed a place to stay so we looked for a house on Craigslist. We were lucky; we liked the second house we saw and we got it. We just moved in and started to work from there. I think there are things in life that you can plan and others that happen by accident. This was one of those accidents.
You were a fan of the late Joan Rivers and even named your SS2014 collection after a format on her TV Show, Fashion Police. Tell us more about it.
Joan Rivers was a very strong woman and deserves all my respect, but also my irony. She was the one who coined the phrase “Who are you wearing?” and allowed people to experience the red carpet in a funny way. She was the first person who dared to make fun of fashion, and I found that very inspiring. My favourite show was one featuring Victoria Beckham. In her typical fashion Joan was making fun of her and asked: “Does my tampon make me look fat?”
And, has the relocation been a happy accident?
I don’t know. The journey has just begun, so time will tell. At least I really like the house. It was built in 1972, the same year I was born. It is not the biggest house, but the view compensates for this – it’s the main reason we took it. It’s just a typical Californian house up on the Hollywood Hills. Moby lives up the street, so we’re in good company.
What’s the thing you miss the most about Europe living in Los Angeles?
Not a lot. It’s not like I’m completely gone. I’m mostly between Europe and the States, so I don’t get to miss that much. Last summer I had a lot of friends visiting and all of them brought something, and some even cooked some European food for us. Sometimes I don’t like that it’s always sunny in California, but it makes no sense to complain about it.
Maybe I miss the kinky side of Europe. And demonstrations – Americans are so politically correct!
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION:
From February 7 to May 17, 2015, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (MOCA) will present the first American museum exhibition of the work of fashion designers Bernhard Willhelm and Jutta Kraus.“Bernhard Willhelm 3000: When Fashion Shows The Danger Then Fashion Is The Danger” is a site-specific work at MOCA Pacific Design Center that functions as a sculptural installation and features their Fall / Winter 2015-16 collection.
Sunglasses from the MYKITA & Bernhard Willhelm collection will be available for purchase at the museum's shop.