The man who defined 1980s fashion is back in the spotlight, thanks to the sensational Cardi B who wore, not one, but three archive Thierry Mugler looks at last night’s Grammy Awards.
The name of arguably one of the most revered designers of the 80s and 90s is hot on everyone’s lips once again.
Who is Thierry Mugler?
Much more than 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 about two decades of fashion.
Considered a ‘man of the future’, Thierry Mugler (now going by his birth name Manfred) transformed ordinary women and supermodels alike into otherworldly and astonishing creatures with the help of PVC and a penchant for showmanship. He transformed women into space-age vixens on the regular and created whimsical and quite often erotic clothing fantasies.
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 and physically is now almost completely unrecognisable, the once agile ballet dancer is a devout body builder, a transformation you can read about at the New York Times. He continues making costumes and sets for numerous productions including, Cirque du Soleil.
Here are five of the designer’s most iconic looks of all time
1) 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.
2) 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 recognise 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.
3) 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.
4) 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 critic’s opinions divided and wowed the audience once again at his enthralling 20th anniversary show.
5 ) Autumn/Winter 1997
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.