Magnificent Mugler

Thierry Mugler, the wildly inventive couturier responsible for creating seemingly superhuman women with his daring collections, is being feted by the Brooklyn Museum in an impressive large-scale retrospective of his life and work. The exhibition Thierry Mugler: Couturissime has traveled from Montreal where it enjoyed a long run and is informative in both its breadth and depth of its subject’s history.

The exhbition begins with this 3D video projection entitled "The Incandescence of Lady Macbeth" which festures pieces from Comedie-Francaise's spectacular 1985 production of "Macbeth" in which Thierry Mugler designed more than seventy costumes and accessories. The dress, made of a golden cage with a self-supporting metal skeleton, cleverly opens to expose the deposed queen in a simple chiffon nightgown.

With a wholly unique career trajectory, Mugler was one of those early hyphenates who really did do it all. Starting as a young dancer with the Rhin Opera ballet corps, he also studied formal interior design as a teenager. From there he began designing clothes for London boutiques, where he introduced his famous broad-shouldered look as well as a full skirted raincoat. By the age of 24, he moved to Paris to design for Gudule and over a short time, started designing for houses in Milan, London and Barcelona.

Two looks worn by David Bowie. At left is a "Wet Look" gown from Fall/Winter 1979-80 worn in the music video "Boys Keep Swinging." At right is a wool crepe suit from Spring/Summer 1992 worn in the music video for Tin Machine's "You Belong in Rock 'n' Roll."

In the early 1970’s he designed his first personal collection and continued to garner attention for his razor sharp, sophisticated silhouettes. By the 1980’s he had reached international recognition, leading to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture’s 1992 request to create his first haute couture collection.

At left, Fall/Winter 1986-87 "Hiver Russe" pret-a-porter collection--velvet tunic adorned with crystals and velvet shorts. At right, Fall/Winter 1997-98 "La Chimere" haute couture collection--bouclette wool crepe evening coat with latex shaping and embossed trim and latex chiffon bodysuit.

These couture shows were built around specific themes, such sci-fi, aquatic or the insect world and were extravagant affairs with bold clothing, exaggerated proportions and imaginative manipulations of the human form.

Looks from an aquatic themed collection, including the famous "rainbow" jacket.

Mugler was not only prolific in designing clothing but completely molded his brand into a cohesive whole, creating accessories and perfumes, conceiving advertising campaigns using his own photography for his products, overseeing commercial productions and handling every creative endeavor behind the company.

Various looks from collections in the 1990's. Note the coffin wristlet at the far left!
I am an architect who completely reshapes a woman's body--Thierry Mugler
Two looks from George Michael's 1992 music video "Too Funky" in which Mugler freatured his motorcycle inspired bustiers.

He also designed costumes for musical comedies, concerts, operas, the theatre and music videos.

Spring/Summer 1997 "Les Insectes" haute couture collection--long velvet sheath with flared train adorned with feathers, made in collaboration with Maison Lemarie, Paris.
At left, Fall/Winter 1999-2000 "Les Meduses" haute couture asymmetrical organza dress with pleated lacquered organza spiral bustier and velvet skirt. At right, Fall/Winter 1992-1993 "Ritz" haute couture collection--tuxedo-style grain de poudre wool and satin suit; jacket with see-through back and bustle adorned with crystals and matching pant and skirt.
An intriguing suit made with rubber and resembling tire material!

In the 2000’s, Mugler left fashion. as he desired to pull away from the industry in which he had held so much influence, Moving on to other pursuits, he worked with Cirque du Soleil and was artistic advisor to Beyoncé. He created a line of popular beauty cosmetics. Eventually, he began a more reclusive existence, especially after having suffered several serious accidents.

While Mugler passed away in 2022, his legacy is tremendous and his vintage pieces have seen a resurgence in interest among aficionados. And the mass market can even now experience a bit of his legacy in a collaboration with the Swedish fashion company H&M which will release a collection this coming May, created by the current artistic director Casey Cadwallader, ensuring that the “superhuman” will live on!

Thierry Mugler: Couturissime runs through May 7.