Remembering Thierry Mugler: Bold Designer, Artistic Director And Dancer Rolled Into One

Remembering Thierry Mugler: Bold Designer, Artistic Director And Dancer Rolled Into One


The iconic fashion designer made waves in the ’70s and ’80s with his eyebrow-raising and out-of-this-world creations

Merely 5 days after the passing of former Vogue Creative Director and style icon, André Leon Talley, another force in fashion faces loss: Thierry Mugler. The iconic French designer was born in Strasbourg, France in 1948 and studied at the School of Fine Arts from 1966 to 1967.

According to his agent Jean-Baptiste Rougeot, Mugler died due to “natural causes.” Thierry Mugler’s self-named fashion house, Mugler, and his page announce his passing as well.

He was a kind of renaissance man, thanks to his many adopted roles—from starting as a dancer for the Rhine Opera Ballet to transitioning to a young professional photographer in Paris, and finally, pursuing his calling as a fashion designer for some of the biggest names in the planet. 

It is rumored that his pursuit of a career in the fashion world was inspired by his previous experiences as a ballet dancer and as a photographer. Mugler was drawn to design because he brought to life his very own outfits for recitals and performances. On top of that, he was also interning for various fashion houses in a city that is all about fashion: Paris. His first ready-to-wear line was coined as “Café de Paris” in 1973 and its success brought him financial backing to open up his own self-named company, Thierry Mugler, the following year. 

His untimely demise is the perfect excuse to look back at what made him fall on the lines of “iconic”. To commemorate his death, here are some of the things Thierry Mugler was best known for in his extravagant jack-of-all-trades career.

Bold Moves In Fashion

Perhaps the worst adjective to use to describe the French designer is “ordinary”. Revisiting his old high octane runway shows and collections will be full proof of that. Mugler was very fond of body-conscious designs and utilized leather and rubber. His models often donned futuristic apparel that resembled robots or giant insects like scorpions that allude to those seen in science fiction movies like Metropolis. At his designer touch, his models transform into the “female fatales,” “superheroes” and “superheroines”.

Embodying the moniker, “enfant terrible,” he has pushed out even more bizarre looks on the runway. Case in point: the provocative red-hot cowboy ensemble from one of his 1990’s F/W haute couture collections. The outfit was composed of the iconic cowboy hat, a corset, chaps, and heels—all in a blaring red hue. In truly unconventional fashion, the notorious fashion was modeled and cross-dressed by a black transvestite. 

Besides his very theatrical creations, his more discreet designs were also hot on everybody’s lips. Take for example his colorful and sharply tailored suits in the 1980s. 

In one of the rare times he’s appeared in an interview, he shared in a sit-down with Numéro in 2017 that he had a hard time in the fashion industry. “The journalists didn’t understand my collections at all, they judged from idiotic point of views, with stupid questions about the season’s inspiration. It was a pain.” This has led to Mugler quitting altogether ready-to-wear couture collections in 2003—another bold move. In the same interview, he responded to interviewer Numéro Homme’s question as to why he gave it up. “Mainly because fashion was an incredible means of artistic expression in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but it wasn’t like that anymore in the 2000s when creation was completely stifled by marketing and business.” He continued by sharing how taxing it was to keep up with the “infernal pace” and “impossible deadlines” initiated by the chaotic industry. 

To Mugler, leaving meant being able to take care of himself more by putting an end to the spiral of comparing himself to others and truly becoming what he was as a kid: “strong and physical, a joker and a fighter.

Hyperfeminine Fetish Creations 

Before and in-between his work as a designer, he also adopted the role of a photographer. And even in this field, Mugler was making moves that were unconventional and enough to make one’s eyebrows raise. His work in photography was quintessential of what fetish fashion looked like. The characters his models portrayed will remind you of dominatrixes—sporting leather high-heeled boots, corseted curves, sexual accessories like neck corsets, whips, and riding crops. 

Cementing this style of his, he featured a collection of photographs and designs that sport the provocative fashion in his 192-paged book, “Thierry Mugler: Fashion Fetish Fantasy” in 1998. 

Fashion Go-To Of Big Stars

Thierry Mugler possesses a powerful arsenal when it comes to the big names he’s catered to. After halting the creation of new haute couture collections for his fashion house, he didn’t give up fashion entirely. He was still making rounds, but now in the music and film scene. He proudly took on the seat of costume designer, artistic director, and go-to fashion person of well-known personalities. Those of whom are taking to social media today to mourn their “friend” and fashion icon. 

We have the likes of Motown American singer, Diana Ross, who was one of the models in the designer’s 1991 Spring show.

Diana Ross Thierry Mugler 1991 Spring Fashion Show
Photo from VOGUE

The 80’s singer-songwriter George Michael also worked with Mugler in the MV of his song “Too Funky”. Here, renowned models Linda Evangelista and Tyra Banks were strutting down the runway in wears that Mugler crafted. It ranged from catsuits, lace gowns to corsets inspired by Detroit car styles in the 1950s. 

In terms of film, he was behind Demi Moore’s classic sultry black dress in Indecent Proposal. The sexy vibes the apparel exude were perfect for one of Diana’s, Moore’s character, most iconic lines in the film, “This dress is for sale, I’m not.” 

In more recent years, Mugler also worked closely with superstar Beyoncé. He heeded the singer and legendary performer’s request for him to be her “I Am…” world tour’s artistic director. He conceptualized the whopping 58 outfits for the promotional video of the tour. His creativity and love for both fashion and performance spilled over into the choreography, lighting design, overall direction of the concerts, and even the subsequent film that revolved around the event. 

Rapper and style icon herself, Cardi B, was a fan of Mugler. At the 2019 Grammys, Cardi’s ensemble was designed by none other than Mugler for his Autumn/Winter 1995-1996 collection. It paid homage to Botticelli’s 1480’s painting, The Birth of Venus.

Photo from Cardi B’s Instagram

There are also the likes of those not in the music scene but are equally full of star power like Kim Kardashian. Numerous times, the pair have worked together. Kardashian received much limelight during the 2019 Met Gala when she wore a wet-looking, ethereal dress of his. It took over 8 months for Mugler to make it! He crafted it out of unconventional materials such as silk organza on top of the silicone and crystals.

Like Cardi B, the superstar also dug deep into Mugler’s archive of designs. She sported his 1998 vintage gown with the thigh-high slit and daring thin straps across the torso for her attendance in the 2019 Annual Hollywood Beauty Awards. Even for non-glamorous events, Mugler is by her side as her fashion go-to—such as for the socialite’s avant-garde “cow-bot” 2021 Halloween costume.

Kim Kardashian cow-bot halloween costume

To add to the very long list of Mugler’s star-studded clientele, there are also the likes of David Bowie, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga.

Successful Fragrance Venture

When we say this man is versatile, we’re not kidding. He’s not only famous for his colorful career in fashion but also his lucrative and world-renowned fragrance line.

In 1992, he opened the fragrance company. It was the same year Mugler also released his first-ever haute couture collection for France’s Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Among his best-sellers are the Alien and the label’s first product Angel collections.

Alien smells as exotic as its name. Otherworldly like Mugler’s fashion designs, this scent is described as floral because of the jasmine, with woody notes. 

On the other hand, Angel is recommended for the daytime and has notes that will leave you feeling fresh all day. These are among the many variants: vanilla, sandalwood, patchouli, fresh citrus, melons, peaches, and plums. 

Many big personalities like Meghan Markle, Katy Perry, and Victoria Beckham have expressed their love for these fragrances. 

His Physical Transformations

How Thierry Mugler looked in the past years and before his death were not how he appeared before. Along with revealing and owning his actual moniker at birth, Manfred Thierry Mugler also went through an astonishing physical transformation. His metamorphosis culminated with an entirely unrecognizable chiseled physique. When thought of deeply, the evolution of how he looks comes as no surprise as he is also a bodybuilder. 

In his interview with Numéro, he shared how he achieved his new look, “So, I armed myself with an iron will and a slew of nutritionists, therapists, coaches…and an army of plastic surgeons, if I’m not mistaken.” Mugler had surgery on his legs and had a bone taken out of his hip. He underwent a rigorous facial reconstruction following a major accident in the gym that obliterated his face. The designer had asserted many times that he does not have a single implant in his body and is all bones. 

The reality may be Thierry Mugler’s death, but we believe the legacy he left with how he shaped the fashion industry, continues boldly. May he rest in power.

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