Bernhard Willhelm

Interview by
Peter de Potter
Photography by
Wolfgang Tillmans


Bernhard Willhelm (28) is a German-born fashion designer, currently living and working in Antwerp, Belgium. Only months after finishing his four-year course at the fashion department of the Royal Academy of Antwerp, he started showing his own designs in Paris. Last March, he presented his fifth collection, for Winter 2001-2002, at the Moulin Rouge.

What BUTT-boys should know about Bernhard Willhelm:
• He is one of the best contemporary designers around, because he steers clear of clichéd notions of glamour and beauty.
• The first thing he does after breakfast is trying out another new idea at his cutting table. Every single day. Only to stop twice a year, take off to Paris and show the results of his arduous labour on a catwalk.
• He thinks clothes should be fun to wear and to look at. But in a serious way.
• His heroine is Pippi Longstocking.
• At the moment he’s obsessed with Lucy, the first woman in the evolution of mankind known to walk upright, instead of crawling around on all fours. Her skull was found in the African desert and scientists reckon it to be 3 million years old. In a tribute to this early femme fatale, Willhelm had skeletons dancing on a giant backdrop during his last show.
• He still has a soft spot for Nena. You know, 99 Luftballons.
• He makes sweaters emblazoned with dinosaurs and landscapes, puffy ra-ra skirts, Bavarian-style girlie dresses and coats with figurine monkeys on their back.
• He’s got a good body. Because he thinks it’s the best accessory.
• He is a natural blonde.
• He says it’s cool not to be cool.

Bernhard Willhelm on sex and boys and tampons and slimy monsters, in the first of our ‘Butt Fuck Q&A’.

Have you ever used whipped cream?
No, I prefer it not whipped.
What’s the meaning of sex?
Sex is communication. Desire. Lust. And it’s very entertaining. It makes you happy.
What is your earliest erotic memory?
The smell of summer. The first ripe strawberries in our garden.
Rumour goes you once went to a fashion show in a kilt and no underwear.
Is this true?
It might be.
What do you think of Gay Pride? Ever been to one?
When I was sixteen, I went to my first Gay Parade. That was in Cologne. I wore short denim pants and a pink mohawk. It was great fun then.
Lots of Dutch guys are very attracted to the idea of a German man. How comes, you think?
Because both the Dutch and the Germans are very open(!).
Is Germany sexy?
Very much so. And it will become even more so. The country just can’t help it.
Do you think about sex when you’re making your clothes?
Working with a hard-on is great fun.
Who was the first boy you had a crush on?
That happened when I was on holiday in Brighton, England. I had a flirt with a black guy on the beach. My English improved steadily.
Are all straight men actually gay?
Not at all. It’s nice to know you can’t have them all.
Give us some tips on seducing a guy.
Looky Looky
Fucky Fucky
Only 5 dollars!
Do you believe in gay marriage?
Yes! Please marry me!
Let’s talk limits. What maximum age can a guy have to make him attractive to you? Same for weight.
Maximun age: 55 (or later). Maximum weight: 85 (or earlier).
Define fidelity.
Fidelity is only 5 dollars away.
Do designers get groupies?
Groupies are great. Especially female ones.
What’s your fetish?
Underwear. Let’s do a range in underwear.
What colour is sex?
What is the sexiest fabric?
Mix and match.
What, in your opinion (based on experience) is the best time of the day to have sex?
In the evening, or around midnight. Ich bin nachtaktiv.
What part of a man’s body is unexplored?
Ears. I get immensely turned on by sound.
What is the most sexy look for a man?
I like holes.
Did you get sex education from your parents?
No. They didn’t even tell me what tampons were.
Did you panic when you had your first wet dream?
A bit. It happened after I saw Tom Selleck on Magnum, P.I.
What for you is the sexiest movie?
Aliens. Sigourney Weaver is so sexy in it. The same for the alien, dripping with slime.
Any final thoughts?
Be nice and kind. The Dalai Lama says to spend some time on your own every single day. And appreciate cooking!

BUTT - 4-b
Bonus: Bernhard Willhelm on the cover of the first issue of BUTT

Originally published in BUTT 1