Generally, you can tell what kind of a trip Bernhard Willhelm is on by what he's balanced on his models' heads: for S/S 2009 it was child-inspired papier-mache animal masks; for winter, gilded bananas, dollar signs and cardboard houses were an oblique a comment on consumerism. This season, those long-suffering models were rather more sedately garlanded with coronas of feathers or foliage - the only outlandish touch being a palm leaf rising, like a fontange, a good three feet above the poor girl's face. Yes, Willhelm was thinking about nature for Spring - not really an original conceit, although Willhelm tackled it with typical aplomb. The collection was a New Age paeon to the simple life, with slubbed materials hand-dyed, tie-dyed and simplistically wrapped around the figure in brilliant shades of cobalt, verdigris green and ombre vermillion shaded through to sulphur - especially appealing in the clutch of column dresses that closed the show. Cut in those wide, easy shapes Willhelm has been working for quite, quite some time, it all seemed very soft, summery and saleable (to the right people). But was it very new? No. Willhelm and his close collaborator Jutta Kraus have a retrospective opening at the Groninger Museum later this year, and maybe this collection was a dress rehearsal? Regardless, in this kind of climate, when you have one of Willhelm's ruched, block-printed and flowing babydoll frocks in summery mattress-ticking, do you really need a parade of thirty-or-so variations? The saving grace of the collection were the pieces that seemed very new indeed - namely that babydoll reworked in a sophisticated lurex-shot chiffon, and a neat shot of camouflage. Linking with the safari/militaristic feel seen elsewhere, the best variation was a taut tailored peplum jacket bristling with poacher's pockers and teamed with a one-legged trouser. If it sounds studenty, it wasn't: it's a mark of Willhelm's skill, and a decade of experience, that it seemed the epitome of quirky-chic.
Willhelm was thinking about nature for Spring - not really an original conceit, although Willhelm tackled it with typical aplomb.