WORDS BY JOSEPH FURNESS
Whether you know him for his extraterrestrial fashions of the late 20th Century, for the intoxicating Angel and Alien perfumes (favourites of mums everywhere), or for designing Kim Kardashian West’s 2019 Met Gala dress; Theirry Mugler is a name, one way or another, you’re most likely familiar with — but who is Manfred Thierry Mugler?
Born in 1946 in Strasbourg, France; Manfred Thierry Mugler is the man behind the distinguished Mugler brands. He's the designer who shook things up in the industry and is partially responsible for making fashion what it is today — a feat he’s often unrecognised for. The thing about Manfred is that even those who haven’t heard of him before, are sure to have come across at least one of his trailblazing designs in their lifetime. Demi Moore’s renowned ‘Indecent Proposal’ dress: Mugler. Beyoncé’s I AM… World Tour wardrobe: Mugler. Cardi B’s 2019 Grammy Awards dress: Mugler.
Manfred Thierry Mugler's Story
Manfred has always been fascinated by the creative arts and by the tender age of 9, he discovered the medium of dance which led him on the join the ballet corps at the Rhin Opera. But it was during his early 20s when he first discovered his true calling in life — fashion. During this period of his life, Manfred Mugler spent time in Paris and London, discovering his own style and designing for boutiques such as Gudule to gain skills and earn money.
In 1973, Thierry Mugler presented his first collection titled ‘Café de Paris’. He kept his forename off the label as (he told Numero magazine) he felt the industry “needed a name that was synthetic, and for a French brand, the name Manfred didn’t quite hit the mark”. The sharp, angular designs of his work were extremely refreshing and added a youthful twist on trending silhouettes of the era: an aesthetic which soon became closely associated with his brand. He made a whole host of inspirations the new mode — from space-age insects and automobiles. His popularity relied on his boldness, his innovative use of materials and his ability to channel sexuality through garms.
As well as changing the face of fashion forever, Mugler helped to reinvent the runway. He understood each of his shows as a grand-reveal, a celebration filled with music and fun. He only wanted the industry’s finest models to showcase his collections and he wanted them to enjoy the moment as much as the spectators.
Over the years, Mugler’s collections only became more intriguing and his fashion shows, more theatrical. His ideas were inescapable and his influences, driven by his obsessions and desires, were always extraordinary. In the early 2000s, Manfred was approached by Cirque du Soleil to produce the costumes for their new ‘adult-focused’ show titled Zumanity. A match made in heaven; Mugler’s desire to create provocative, exaggerated fashions made this an ideal project for the designer.
But even though Mugler himself, his designs and cosmetic lines were still so desired, his brand began to suffer from the recession. And so, Mugler decided to announce his last collection for his eponymous label before bowing out from fashion completely. He didn’t want to continue in an industry that puts profit over innovation. He continued to create fragrances that rocked the world (he felt this was the way to stay creative that felt right for him) and decided the menswear side of the Thierry Mugler brand would continue under the eye of Thomas Engelhart and then later Rosemary Rodriguez.
Cut to 2010 and some of the most influential designers were flirting with Mugler’s archetypal style, attempting to replicate the success he had with womenswear a decade before. Manfred hadn’t designed in years but he still continued to inspire trends in manifold ways, and so, to meet (and capitalise on) the demand, Mugler was founded. Nicola Formichetti — who, at the time, was Lady Gaga’s stylist (and designer of that meat dress) — was brought in to launch the new label, helming both the womenswear and menswear collections. Formichetti offered a new spin on the Mugler brand which paved the way for his successor David Koma and the current creative director, Casey Cadwallader.
Since 2018, Cadwallader has taken Mugler into an exciting new direction that’s considered both forward-thinking and considerate of the brand’s aesthetic — just look at Sophie Turner in that LBD by Mugler, Chloe Sevigny in her Mugler blazer at Cannes or Beyoncé in her head-to-toe leopard print Mugler ensemble during her OTR Tour. Nevertheless, this year has been all about Manfred Thierry Mugler himself. Why? Because the designer’s 20th Century designs have been popping up on the most talked about celebrities of 2019. This includes Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar, AKA Cardi B, wearing an archived 1995 Thierry Mugler outfit on the 2019 Grammy Awards red carpet and Solange Knowles, opting for an SS91 Thierry Mugler robot corset for her ‘When I Get Home’ visual album.
But it’s Kim Kardashian West who has really adopted Manfred’s designs and helped revive the brand name. Earlier this year, KKW grabbed the world’s attention when attending the designer’s first retrospective at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts when she swapped out her slouchy Yeezy fits for three 90s Thierry Mugler dresses that made her look no-less than a fierce Amazonian warrior.
Kim K’s relationship with Mugler was to be more than a one-night stand as Kim persuaded Manfred to come out of fashion design retirement for the first time since the early 2000s so that he may design her 2019 Met Gala dress. With the theme for the Met Gala being Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay ‘Notes on Camp’, Kim believed that the designer’s skills and imaginations combined with her exaggerated silhouette would make the ultimate ‘camp’ look.
The outfit, titled ‘wetlook’, was inspired by Sophia Loren’s wet T-shirt costume in 1957’s Boy on a Dolphin and, as expected, was one of the most talked-about pieces of the night. It featured crystal water drops upon a silicone base, took eight months to make and required Kim to spend time corset training (with Mr Pearl, of course). And, naturally, the collaboration between the Kardashian and the designer has only left people wanting more from Manfred.
So now we are left wondering, will Manfred Thierry Mugler work on more red carpet looks? Will he have more involvement in the Mugler brand that has now received a publicity boost thanks to Kim K and Co.? And where will Cadwallader take the brand with its regained popularity? Only time will tell...