Thierry Mugler, creator of the French fashion house Mugler, was one of the most innovative and timeless designers of his time. He once revealed that he was fascinated by what he called the most beautiful creature on Earth: the human being. This love for the human form showed in the way he designed for them. With a knack for both fashion and performance art, Mugler knew exactly how to put on a good show. His artistic flair and ability to captivate an audience was exactly what made him so influential.
Source: New York Times
Born Manfred Thierry Mugler in 1948 in France to a doctor and a homemaker, Mugler was said to have always been transfixed by his mother's elegance. Seemingly bored with everyday life, Mugler was always involved in the arts. He joined ballet classes at age nine and the National Rhine Opera at age 14. While dancing, Mugler also attended the Strasbourg School of Decorative Art, which further inspired his creativity. In his 20s, Thierry moved to Paris where he worked as a window dresser before he eventually began working as a freelance designer for a variety of fashion houses.
After designing for other brands for a few years, Mugler created his own first collection called ‘Café de Paris’ in 1973. This collection featured popular silhouettes of the time such as wide shoulders, but its theatrical nature set it apart from other collections from this time. Mugler's knack for theatrics can be accredited to his dance background, and is something that shaped most of his collections. The release of his own label followed the very next year in 1974.
In 1978, Mugler opened his first store in Paris, signifying the start of an abundant career. Thierry worked hard to establish his brand and making a name for himself. In these years, he forged relationships with supermodels such as Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell and other pop culture icons like George Michael and RuPaul.
Source: NSS Magazine
In celebration of the tenth anniversary of Thierry Mugler's brand, Mugler held a fashion show open to the public at the Zénith in Paris. The angelic and theatrical FW 1984 show featured 350 dresses, and models were adorned in golden wings, sparkling headpieces, and stunning draped gowns. The biggest moment of the show featured Pat Cleveland descending from the sky as an angel.
The 90s signified the start of a huge era for Mugler with the launch of Thierry Mugler Parfums in 1990. Just two years later, Angel was created, the first gourmand fragrance in existence. That same year, Mugler launched its initiative to refill perfume bottles instead of forcing people to buy a new one when they ran out. This initiative launched initially with the Angel perfume, but fountains would later be set up for the Alien fragrance as well. Not only were these scents revolutionary, but bottle refilling became a big step toward sustainability both for this brand and for the fragrance industry.
Source: Brooklyn Museum
Mugler ventured into the world of Haute Couture in 1992. Spectators were said to have considered his designs art rather than just clothing, and this was not without good reason. Mugler's use of unlikely materials, such as rubber and metal, made him stand out from the rest of the world of Parisian couture at this time. With the rise of minimalism beginning in the late 1970s, Mugler was the exact antithesis of this. Not afraid to go against the status quo, he quickly established himself as an authority on couture through his craftsmanship and innovation.
Source: British Vogue
One of Mugler's most iconic fashion moments occurred in 1993 when Demi Moore wore a little black dress designed by Thierry Mugler in the film Indecent Proposal. This dress was a big moment in fashion, and just last year Moore called it "THE dress." At the time, this dress caused controversy because people saw pieces like this as sexualizing women. In reality, what motivated Mugler was his love for the human body, something he was not afraid to highlight and show off in his designs.
Source: Vogue Runway
The Fall 1995 Couture show was a celebration of 20 years of the Mugler brand at the Cirque d'Hiver. And, like any Mugler show, it was quite the spectacle. The daring nature of the show proved that even after 20 years, Mugler was still full of fresh, interesting ideas. From peacock feathers to robotic latex to human chandeliers, it was one of the most abundant collections in fashion history. This show was even called "the Woodstock of Fashion" by the New York Times and revered as one of the designers' most legendary. Mugler later said that though he didn't realize it at the time, this show was the end of an era. With the rise of the internet and later social media, the fashion industry took a turn toward catering to marketability. In many ways, this might have been one of the last truly revolutionary shows of this era.
Mugler left his label in 2003 and chose to pursue costume design for Cirque du Soleil and for Beyoncé's world tour. For most, a departure from their brand would mean the end of their career, but Thierry Mugler's name never left the fashion zeitgeist. In the following years, he would officially retire from fashion design, but his retirement turned out to not be permanent.
In 2019, Mugler left retirement to design the iconic "wet dress" for Kim Kardashian to wear to the camp-themed Met Gala. The latex gown adorned with water-like beads reportedly took eight months to make, and it caused a great deal of controversy online. Love it or hate it, the ensemble was a bold return to fashion for Mugler.
In the same year, he dressed Cardi B in three of his archival looks, including the iconic Venus gown from Mugler's 1995 collection. Not only did Cardi make history that night, being the first woman to ever win Best Rap Album, but the internet blew up over Thierry Mugler giving her not one, not two, but three of his iconic vintage pieces. Though his name never actually left the conversation, this certainly put emphasis on Mugler once again.
In 2022, the world was shocked by the news that Manfred Thierry Mugler had passed away at the age of 73. Despite the devastating news, there was never even a question of whether or not his legacy would live on. Mugler's career both paved the way for and influenced so much of couture today, and this is not something to be taken lightly. He once summed up his philosophy by saying, "The opposite of good taste is safe." Mugler never once played it safe in his work. His willingness to take risks is what made his designs so special, and that will live on in fashion forever.