RETROSPECTIVE ON THE LIVES OF BIG DESIGNERS: THIERRY MUGLER

RETROSPECTIVE ON THE LIVES OF BIG DESIGNERS: THIERRY MUGLER

This week, Ruth Croft looks into the inspiring life of one of the greatest fashion designers ever to have lived.

On the night of January 23rd, 2022, the fashion world fell silent in a lament to one of their most magical stars for at his residence in Vincennes, Paris, the magnificent Thierry Mugler had passed away at the age of 73.

Social media exploded into expressions of grief and gratitude towards the very much-loved fashion designer. Mugler wasn’t just any stylist. He was a revolution, a beautiful rebellion that rose to prominence for his independent take on fashion; that of hyperfeminine, dramatic, visionary artistry. His work is perhaps most synonymous with the extremism of avant-garde. And, of course, Mugler was also renowned for his inclusion of diversity, taking models from all walks of life and integrating them into his runway shows.

He was never frightened nor hesitant to do the unexpected, to challenge what others had done, and to make the fashion world more vibrant. It was his courage, as well as his iconic designs, that inspired so many people, both stylists, models, and everyday people alike, to brave the world of wonder and journey where others might hesitate.

Manfred Thierry Mugler was born on the 21st of December 1948 in Strasbourg, France. He admitted that he held little interest in school, permitting his passions for drawing and creativity to take over academics. At the age of nine, he began to study classical dance and eventually went on to join the ballet corps for the Rhin Opera (Opéra National du Rhin). During this time, Mugler attended the Strasbourg School of Decorative Arts, beginning his education of interior design. This ultimately led him to creating his own clothes and sparked the legend he would become. Upon moving to Paris in his early twenties, Mugler began designing for a boutique, and a mere two years later, he started creating styles on a freelance basis for fashion houses across Paris, London, Milan, and Barcelona.

It wasn’t until 1973 that Mugler made his first real move into the established fashion industry. Mugler launched his career with a collection called Café de Paris and was soon awarded the support of fashion editor Melka Tréanton, who chose to showcase his work in Tokyo for a multinational cosmetic event in 1976. Two years after that, Mugler unveiled his first boutique in Paris, just a short distance from the Palais Royal. This establishment, in the confluence of six major streets in the city, soon gained widespread attention from both fashion designers and regular clientele.

In the two decades that followed, Mugler transformed into an internationally revered fashion designer. His designs were renowned for their individualism— broad shoulder pads on retrograde suits, celestial glamour, and even a vampire-devil theme in one of his runway shows. He became even more famous for these extraordinary events. He experimented with a sci-fi look and an aquatic look, all performed to an arena-like environment. And, as his popularity rose, so did his inspiration. Mugler finalised his first haute couture collection in 1992.

Mugler also decided to venture into the world of film. He designed costumes for musical comedies, in addition to concerts and the theatre. He was awarded the accolade of designing “the most famous dress of the 1990s,’ for Demi Moore’s iconic dress in the movie, Indecent Proposal. He designed the outfits for George Michael’s music video, ‘Too Funky,” which he also directed, and later went on to resurrect vintage designs for Lady Gaga’s music video, ‘Telephone.”

It was these experiences that perhaps encouraged other celebrities to collaborate with Mugler. His time as a designer saw him create visionary styles for icons, such as Madonna, David Bowie, Grace Jones, Diana Ross, and Beyoncé. In his later years, Mugler often worked with American rapper, Cardi B, allowing her to showcase his most classic creations on the red carpet.

Mugler didn’t stop there. For the 2019 Met Gala, hosted in New York city, he dressed Kim Kardashian in a one-off design: a peach/tan-coloured latex gown, trickling with crystals. His vision for Kardashian was to be, “a Californian girl stepping out of the ocean, wet, dripping.”

It was these experiences that perhaps encouraged other celebrities to collaborate with Mugler. His time as a designer saw him create visionary styles for icons, such as Madonna, David Bowie, Grace Jones, Diana Ross, and Beyoncé. In his later years, Mugler often worked with American rapper, Cardi B, allowing her to showcase his most classic creations on the red carpet.

Mugler didn’t stop there. For the 2019 Met Gala, hosted in New York city, he dressed Kim Kardashian in a one-off design: a peach/tan-coloured latex gown, trickling with crystals. His vision for Kardashian was to be, “a Californian girl stepping out of the ocean, wet, dripping.” It was certainly a look that inspired discussion and quickly became one of the most talked about designs at the Met Gala that year.

However, the majority of these iconic moments were actually during Mugler’s retirement from fashion. Having introduced his first perfume in 1992, Angel, Mugler turned his attention to the art of fragrance. He created a masculine scent to compliment the original in 1996, naming it A*Men.

Then in 2005, he created the second most popular perfume in his brand, Alien, which took the world by storm with its jasmine and amber aroma. Together, these perfumes make an approximate of $280 million in sales every year.

That, and the brand’s return to fashion in 2010 under an alternate creative director, made Mugler one of the highest profiled and influential fashion designers of our time.

It wasn’t just his vision that inspired his fans. Mugler was openly gay and incorporated the LGBTQ+ community as much as possible in his work on the runway. He casted trans models in his shows from the 1980s and worked with drag queens to make his styles come alive. Mugler also had a desire to defy the contemporary ideals of modelling, taking a diverse set of models from all eras and putting them in his shows.

Perhaps most famous was his fall haute couture show in 1995 where he showcased modelling legends like Jerry Hall, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Naomi Campbell, and Kate Moss, as well as acting stars Julie Newmar and Tippi Hedren. It was his intention to, “show beauty through the ages.”

Right til the end, Mugler was a creation of redesign. He never stopped seeking possibilities. He never turned his back on himself, not even for a moment. He said, “I wanted to be a warrior. I’ve done so much in my life. I’ve fought so much. I’m a superhero.” He was fearless. And for that, the fashion community will forever remember him.

To read more of Ruth’s work, you can follow her on Instagram @thewriterruth.

Images via Canva and respective Instagrams

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