As a recording of the day's news from a German TV station played in the background, Bernhard Willhelm's show gave viewers a strange sensation something akin to watching a child psychology session in progress. Willhelm's subjects have reached the brink of adolescence, don't know whether to retreat into the safety of childhood or confront the scary outside world, and look like they might have made their clothes in an art-therapy group.
The healing began with girls walking out in dresses and skirts made from what looked like dinosaur-appliqued nursery curtains or bedspreads, their faces daubed with face-paint. For the next stage of treatment, the kids had been encouraged to do all sorts of things with sweatshirts and shell suitslike embroidering them with AC/DC slogans, trees, angels and dog-skeletons, and somehow throwing in their mothers' Hermès scarf print symbols. (They had also decided to sport their pencils, paintbrushes and rulers around their necks as jewelry.) At mealtime, they were out to lunch in a Ronald McDonald-meets-the-Simpsons clownish world of brash polka dots and harlequin patterns.
It's easy to laugh, but Bernhard Willhelm touches a nerve. He's a designer acutely sensitized to the weirdness and stress of being young in the contemporary world and many fashion followers of his generation understand exactly what he's saying.