I went on a 2 day trip to Paris and was lucky enough to catch an exhibition in MAD dedicated to the French couturier Manfred Thierry Mugler. I didn’t know a lot about the personal life and interests of the designer and could only distinguish his RTW by the special geometrical shapes that are typical for him. An afternoon at the museum of arts décoratifs gave me some insights that made me appreciate his work a lot more.
Ballet influence and Fashion made for the Stage
Before becoming a designer, Mugler was a ballet dancer at the Rhin Opera. This interest of his played a big part in his later work. Since I danced ballet for 10 years, this fact made me feel closer to his world.
Mugler considered the clothes as an essential part of the individual – a way of staging one’s everyday life and making it more beautiful, more fun and more creative. Fashion enabled him to express his vision through a mix of fabric, lighting and music. For the soundtrack of his runway Mugler created an eclectic mix of sounds comprising Nitican chants, Egyptian songs, combined with the sounds of water, metal and laughter, as well as classical music like Beethoven, Verdi or Wagner.
How to notice a Mugler silhouette
The first collection of Mugler was in 1973, when he is only 25. In the golden age of hippie fashion trends like flowers and ethnic looks, the silhouettes of Mugler were almost alien like. All garments were unconventional in the body conscious cuts that underlined the femininity of the models. It was a big contrast with the wide hippie dresses. Mugler was also fascinated by architecture and a lot of his clothes have a very specific shapes. Oversized hats, extra-broad shoulders, well fitted gowns and jackets, wasp waist, revealing cleavage (front and back), tall boots, sharp stilettos – these are some of the typical marks of Mugler’s designs.
Futuristic influence in the 80s
The aerodynamic and robot-style looks invented by Mugler are now iconic. Following the new wave in science fiction (60s and 70s) the designer took a new direction. He mixed the traditional medieval armour with futuristic designs. Some of his looks could be easily used as the uniform of the newest DC movie.
An interesting and unusual approach is when he created an homage to a car designer and the result was a lot of corsets in the form of a tailgate.
Magnificent animals and breathtaking beasts
Going back to the stage of life, Mugler reinvented the human body by giving it a beastly taste. With time the designer got more exotic, used different types of fabrics. His inspiration came from the animal world and more specifically from reptiles, insects, butterflies. The interesting part is that he didn’t use the obvious choice of feathers, fur and leather but mimicked nature by creating optical illusions.
In the late 90s Mugler was on top of his fame with two very special collections. The most famous look of Les insects is the one with a black velvet trail and colourful butterfly wings. The most iconic design of La Chimère represented a mythical creature with reptile like bodysuit. The whole dress is embellished with crystals, rhinestones, feathers and horsehair. The creation of this masterpiece required thousands of hours of work in the atelier but it was worth it. While standing in front of it, one can really see the genius of Mugler. A picture may be worth a 1000 words but it is still too weak to describe this masterpiece.
A Star is Born
Before he got famous, Mugler was so poor that he had to sleep on park benches. What can one do, while lying on a bench at night? Well, contemplate stars of course! The designer later says about a particular star in the night sky: “I felt that it was following me, guiding me, that it was my guardian angel, and old myself there must be something better that was going to happen for me. The star came to me.” I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of the sweet aroma of the perfume, but after reading this story I understood why it was so important to him. Five years after starting his brand, Mugler was already experimenting with scents but it took him some time before finding the right balance between tradition and innovation. The new creation started a whole new category of what are called “gourmand” fragrances.