Once again, the fashion world loses one of its most influential figures with the death of the French avant-garde couturier and costume designer. The eccentric French fashion designer passed away on Sunday. Mugler’s team has announced this via his Instagram account. He was 73 years old.
After three well-known faces from the fashion world disappeared last week (fashion journalist André Leon Talley, former top model Ghislaine Nuytten and actor and top model Gaspard Ulliel), Manfred Thierry Mugler passed away on Sunday. The sad news was shared on his Instagram last Sunday in a short statement. An all-black image reads, in French: ‘We are devastated to announce the passing of Mr Manfred Thierry Mugler on Sunday 23rd January 2022. May his soul rest in peace’.
Thierry Mugler was born in Strasbourg in December 1948. At the age of 14 he decided to become a dancer with the ballet company of the Opéra national du Rhin, and studied at the École Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. His creativity led to training as an interior designer, but in his early twenties he shifted his attention to designing clothes.
In 1967 he managed to sell his first designs to the French fashion houses Cacharel and Dorothee Bis. A period of freelancing in various European fashion capitals followed, after which Mugler settled on a houseboat in Amsterdam – some sources say he shared rooms with Sylvester, who would later have big hits with songs like ‘You Make Me Feel..Mighty Real’, and ‘Do You Wanna’. Funk’.
He moved to Paris at the age of 24 and created his own label ‘Café de Paris’ in 1973. A year later he founded the fashion house ‘Thierry Mugler’. His structured and refined silhouettes quickly became an established name.
Some people are exceptionally gifted. Fashion designer Thierry Mugler was one of them: each design was powerful, sharp, soft, outspoken, timeless and different.
In the 80s and 90s he became known in the haute couture world for his sexy style and the big names that walked around in his creations, such as Diana Ross, Lady Gaga, Liza Minelli, Beyoncé, Céline Dion, Svetlana Zakharova, Dua Lipa, but also the Cirque du Soleil were among his clientele. At the request of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, he completed his first haute couture collection in 1992.
Thierry Mugler was often in the company of colleagues Claude Montana, Jean Paul Gaultier and Azzedine Alaïa. His fashion shows were extravagant affairs held in arena-like settings and the associated collections had different themes. He was known for his sculpted designs with broad shoulders and a narrow waist. Wearable art with a bombastic touch was his trademark.
I have always tried to take the body to the next level, to make people dream.
Early in his career, he designed signature looks for Michael Jackson, Madonna, Grace Jones, Diana Ross, and David Bowie; as well as outfits for George Michael’s music video ‘Too Funky’ and most notably Demi Moore’s dress from the 1993 film ‘Indecent Proposal’, once dubbed “the most famous dress of the 1990s”.
In addition, according to the authoritative fashion magazine WWD, Mugler was the first designer to force celebrities to showcase his creations at fashion shows. He was also one of the first designers to champion diversity in his runway shows, often addressing racism and ageism, and incorporating non-traditional models such as drag queens, porn stars and transgender women.
It wasn’t just the clothes that appealed to Mugler. Photography was more than a hobby, many of the photos used in campaigns were taken by the designer himself. In 1988 he publishes his first book as a photographer. He was also the director of several short films for Canal+ and several commercials for Gauloises in 1990. He not only designed the clothing, but he also directed the iconic video clip Too Funky in 1992. In 1994 he co-starred in the film ‘ Ready to Wear’ by Robert Altman.
In 1992, the fashion designer entered the beauty industry with the launch of the fashion house’s first fragrance, Angel, a sugary-sexy blend of caramelized praline, chocolate and a patchouli accord. It would be part of a new fragrance family now known as ‘gourmand’.
Mugler worked very closely with famed nose (and founder and head of the Clarins empire) Jacques Courtin-Clarins to create a fragrance that reflected his approach to fashion design — unexpectedly, somewhere between the vulgar and the luxurious.
Loyal fans of Angel include Diana Ross, Jerry Hall, Barbara Walters, Eva Mendes and Hilary Rodham Clinton. But the powerful fragrance, inspired by Mugler’s childhood memories of visiting the funfair in France, became the ultimate ‘party perfume’ of the 1990s.
The Angel flacon, a technically sophisticated design in the shape of a faceted star, was designed by Thierry Mugler. Brosse Master Glassmakers manufactured the refillable flacons by hand using a special process.
One of the most important features was that the flacons were made of very clear glass without the use of lead, making the flacons recyclable, and the flacons were refillable ‘as in the past’. In this, Jacques Courtin Clarins and Thierry Mugler were way ahead of their time. Limited ‘star’ flacons were released every year.
In 1996 Mugler Angel launched a male version called Angel Men or A*Men. This fragrance contains notes of caramel, coffee, vanilla, patchouli and honey. Nearly ten years after Angel, its 2005 counterpart – Alien – was released with much the same fanfare. Since then, several additional versions such as Angel Muse, Angel Nova, and Alien Goddess have hit the scene earlier this year.
In 1997 he sold his fashion house to the Clarins Groupe. In 2002 he said goodbye to his Maison. When he went out of fashion, the designer went back to using his birth name, Manfred. Through bodybuilding and surgery, he changed his appearance, making him look like a homoerotic illustration of the French artist Tom of Finland. I have always found his transformation fascinating. In his interview with his good friend Tippi Hedren for Interview he talks about this, memorable!
The cheerful Frenchman, a lover of drama and theater, stopped as a designer in 2002 and said about it: “Fashion is beautiful, it is 3D art on a person. But it wasn’t enough, which is why I want to create in other ways”.
He did this, among other things, by focusing on making costumes and concepts for circus, cabaret and pop stars such as Lady Gaga, Cardi B and Beyoncé. At the Cirque du Soleil he directed the ‘Zumanity’ (zoo-manity) show (2003), for which he also designed the costumes. In 2008, he created the outfits for Beyoncé for her ‘Sasha Fierce-Tour’. For her ‘I Am… World Tour’ in 2009 he started working as an artistic consultant and designed both the clothing and the decor.
In September 2010, Nicola Formichetti was announced as Creative Director of the Thierry Mugler brand. He changed the brand name to Mugler, removed the first name, and in January 2011, launched the revival of the brand’s menswear collection in collaboration with Romain Kremer.
After more than two years working as Mugler’s creative director, Formichetti announced in April 2013 that he and the fashion house were separating. Formichetti left Mugler to work for the Italian brand Diesel. This year Thierry Mugler returned as a creative advisor.
In 2016, Thierry Mugler created and directed the music video and staging for San Marino’s Eurovision Song Contest entry ‘I Didn’t Know’ performed by Turkish singer Serhat. In 2019 he created a ballet together with the choreographer Wayne McGregor. Mugler joined forces with the choreographer to direct something he had long dreamed of: a dance-fashion fusion presentation called ‘McGregor and Mugler at The London Coliseum’.
That same year, Mugler interrupted his designer retirement for Kim Kardashian, for whom he designed the dress she wore to the Met Gala. Inspired by Sophia Loren in the movie Boy on a Dolphin, Mugler imagined a ‘wet’ California girl; hence the name of the creation “wet couture dress”. The dress from which small drops of her body hung has now become an iconic design of his hand.
In October of the same year Mugler was a guest in Rotterdam for two days, where he exhibited his beautiful creations in the Kunsthal with the ‘Couturissime’ exhibition. The exhibition ‘Thierry Mugler: Couturissime’ in the Kunsthal brought together more than 150 outfits from the period between 1977 and 2014, most of which were exhibited for the first time. Wonderful to have seen some of his creations ‘live’ again…
I was working for Clarins in the 1990s. During the launch of Angel in the Netherlands I met Sonia Ziekek, International Training Manager for the Clarins Groupe. This very friendly and sympathetic woman brought me into contact with the right people at Mugler (thanxx always! x), so that I could work behind the scenes of various shows in Paris on the make-up. A very special time, where I met many special people (Tessa Rolink, Victoria… remember the time). So is Thierry Mugler himself, a very friendly and charismatic man. A beautiful person.
Thierry Mugler was a force of creativity and kindness. I was shocked to hear of Manfred Thierry Mugler’s passing. A man with the astonishing vision, who set the tone of the times like no other. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work for you.
Jean Amr, owner Yakymour, former makeup artist
According to his agent Jean-Baptiste Rougeot, Mugler died a sudden, natural death. According to Rougeot, the couturier still had many plans and would announce new collaborations at the beginning of this week.
If someone is going to spend a weekend in Paris soon, an exhibition of his designs is mind blowing.