Bernhard Willhelm was born in Ulm, South Germany, in 1972. His family moved to Belgium and he studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. He graduated in Fashion Design in July 1998.
He interned with designer Walter van Beirendonck and also worked for some time with Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Dirk Bikkembergs.
He was always very keen on fashion designing and launched his own label immediately on leaving college. His first collection of ready-to-wear womenswear was shown during Paris Fashion Week of March 1999. The recognizable style of Bernhard Willhelm succeeded fast in the fashion world, appeared in all magazines, and is now sold worldwide to selected stores.
In October 2000, Willhelm introduced his menswear line and his first menswear show was in January 2003.
In 2002, Bernhard Willhelm was invited to join the Italian house of Capucci as one of a group of young designers which Roberto Capucci wanted to encourage. The master himself has retired, but he urged Willhelm to use the Capucci archive and his own creativity to again revitalize the house. Capucci joined him at the show. Willhelm has now completed three collections for the house of Capucci, for Fall 2003, Spring/Summer 2004 and Fall 2004. He presented a parade of soft, casual clothes with references to Capucci's boxy sculptures from so long ago. Willhelm's garments had intriguing interpretations of volume, with big bold parkas and coats flowing into capes.
Around Christmas 2005, Phoebe Philo announced her resignation from the house of Chloe, as she wanted to spend more time in London with her family. In her place, Bernhard Wilhelm took the reigns as lead womenswear designer.
In 2006, the first Bernhard Willhelm flag ship store based at PARCO in Shibuya, Tokyo opens. It's designed in collaboration with Cyril Duval. Additionally, Frame magazine gives THE GREAT INDOORS AWARD for the best shop concept.
2007 marks the beginning of Wilhelm's “black is also available in white” is the title of an exhibition in collaboration with artist CARSTEN FOCK in Berlin, Apartment Gallery and in Stockholm, Allmänna Galleriet 925. From 2007 -2008, Wilhelm designes the costumes for the theatre play by R.W. Fassbinder “Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant”, directed by Philipp Preuss, at the DEUTSCHES THEATER in Berlin.
In the same year, Bernhard Wilhelm created all outfits for BJÖRK’s WORLD TOUR 'Volta', including outfits for the brass band, flags for the stage and album cover sculpture.
2007-2008 : “HET TOTAAL RAPPEL” at the MOMU in Antwerp (2007-2008), retrospective of BW's work. The exhibition and the book is created with the artists Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs. Bookprice 'Best Swiss Book' award