Alfred Thierry Mugler, the visionary French designer who defined 1980s fashion and was responsible for some of the most out-there and iconic looks of the past decades, has sadly passed away aged 73.
Much more than just a name on a perfume bottle, the French-born designer and “enfant terrible” was, for a tremendous amount of time during his career, one of the most influential designers in the world and helped to define two decades of fashion—and beyond.
The Life of Thierry Mugler
Considered a “man of the future,” Thierry Mugler transformed ordinary women and supermodels alike into otherworldly and astonishing creatures with the help of PVC and a penchant for showmanship. He created whimsical and, quite often, erotic clothing fantasies—and women regularly became space-age vixens in his designs.
Mugler, born in 1948 in Strasbourg, France, honed in on his talent for theatrics as a young boy, when he took up ballet at age nine and then joined the National Rhine Opera at age 14.
By his twenties, after a period of formally studying interior design at The Strasbourg School of Decorative Arts and moving to Paris and working freelance for various fashion designers, Mugler created his first ever collection.
It was 1973 and he called it “Café de Paris,” which played on the popular wide-shouldered silhouettes of the time but adding a youthful, urban twist much like his contemporaries Claude Montana and Azzedine Alaia.
In 1978, he opened his first boutique in Paris and he subsequently worked hard throughout the ’80s to build his empire. Acquiring an army of exalting supermodel and celebrity supporters including Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, George Michael and even RuPaul, by the 1990s Mugler was sold across the globe from Browns in London to Saks on Fifth Avenue, and in 1992, he created his first ever haute couture collection as per the request of France’s Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.
The designer combined elements of science fiction with the popular cuts and shapes of the time—look out for the archetypal broad shoulders and modish cinched waists of the 1980s being given a “Mugler twist” by being recreated in fabrics resembling scales and swatches of latex.
Mugler left his eponymous label in 2003, but continued creating costumes and sets for the likes of Cirque du Soleil and Beyoncé’s I Am… world tour. In 2019, he famously came out of retirement to dress Kim Kardashian for the Met Gala in that wet-look piece, and helped make fashion history by dressing Cardi B in three archival looks for the Grammy’s—where she became the first woman ever to win the award for Best Rap Album.
The designer was also the subject of a major retrospective exhibition, Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
Here, we take a look back through Mugler’s extraordinary archives in honor of his unparalleled creativity, unique vision and extraordinary skill:
Thierry Mugler’s Most Iconic Designs of all Time
The Wet Dress, 2019
Thierry Mugler came out of retirement to create the now-legendary Wet Dress worn by Kim Kardashian for the 2019 Met Gala. The piece marked Mugler’s first design for his namesake fashion house in 20 years–and took an incredible eight months to make.
Mugler stunned the audience of his Autumn/Winter 1997 show when he presented an inhuman, somewhat beastly looking woman.
Her striking gaze was exaggerated by yellow, serpent-like eye contacts and her body sculpted by another incredible Mr Pearl corset. “This was sort of a combination of fish, bird and beast. It was probably the most intense project, it took six weeks working 24 hours a day. So it’s 12 weeks, in fact. There was day shift and night shift. We were 20 people,” said Mr Pearl to Dazed in 2016.
Was this the original “naked dress”? This iconic look from the Mugler archives shows Claudia Schiffer in a sheer mesh dress dripping with crystals and topped with major diamond jewels, hair in the form of a rose, and a glamorous, larger-than-life white fur stole.
Mugler was never one to shy away from making a bold, and often scandalous, statement with his couture designs—as exemplified by this daring dress which he sent down the runway in 1995, which contrasts a classically elegant silhouette and pearls with a cheeky cut-out.
Spring/Summer 1995 The Venus Dress
Inspired by Italian Renaissance artist Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, model Simonetta Gianfelici blossomed out her shell quite literally in this awe-inspiring gown. Adorned with pearls and tucked into a shell of pink satin Mugler’s gown had critics’ opinions divided and wowed the audience once again at his enthralling 20th anniversary show. Cardi B later wore the same piece to attend the Grammy’s in 2019.
Spring/Summer 1995 Robot Woman
For his Autumn/Winter 1995 show, Mugler presented his 20th anniversary “Cirque d’Hiver” collection which was a glorious celebration of the wonderful world of Mugler. This look in particular cemented Mugler as one of the most iconoclastic designers of all time. Featured in that iconic Nick Knight photograph with Kristen McMenamy and even more recently the space-age outfit was sported by Cara Delevingne on the cover of GQ. Still as popular now as it was then.
Spring/Summer 1992 Red Cowgirl
“All of his theatrical pieces can actually be ordered if you’re willing to pay the price,” wrote the press of Mugler’s 1992 Western inspired collection. Models saddled up and donned bedazzled leather chaps complete with matching cowboy hats and bustiers. Not one to shy away from theatrics, it’s Mugler at his best.
Spring/Summer 1992 Motorcycle Corset
Undoubtedly one of the most iconic pieces of the designer’s full oeuvre is the Harley Davidson corset he created for his spring/summer 1992 collection, which transformed woman into machine. In collaboration with renowned corset maker Mr Pearl, Mugler created one his most theatrical pieces which you may recognize from Beyoncé’s I Am… world tour back in 2009. It was seeing this piece at the Met’s Superheroes exhibition the singer decided she had to collaborate with the designer.
Drama and extravagance was Thierry Mugler’s signature–and the moment when model Inès de La Fressange walked down the runway in head-to-toe white fur with two matching poodles will forever go down as one of the most fabulous in fashion history.
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