On 23 January, the revered French fashion designer Manfred Thierry Mugler passed away.
Aged 73, the artist died of natural causes. As the fashion industry mourns the loss of a visionary, it’d be reductive to only tie Mugler’s legacy to his runway theatrics and jaw-dropping couture; his reign of the catwalk in the 80s and 90s. Rather, the designer’s influence – his love for showmanship – runs through the music industry too, having dressed some of the world’s most celebrated artists, such as Beyoncé and David Bowie. Mugler was no stranger to music. The designer not only knew how to create fantastical worlds on the catwalk – the cyborg women! The power dressing! The corsets! – but also for the red carpet, music videos and concert stage. His genre-busting mix of provocative glamour, outlandish designs and high camp made him a force to behold in fashion, and his work, in turn, elevated pop stars, artists and musical icons.
Mugler was famously reclusive and retired from fashion in 2003, only to later return as Creative Advisor in 2013. His cultural touchpoints have continued on through the work of Nicola Formichetti – who served as Artistic Director from 2010 to 2013 – and Casey Cadwallader, who’s held the position of Creative Director since 2018. They, too, have worked with daring artists, such as Lady Gaga, Total Freedom and Eartheater, through their positions at Mugler; continuing the brand’s tradition of linking together both music and fashion. In remembrance of Thierry Mugler, we reflect on the moments he created within these two worlds.
David Bowie’s Saturday Night Live performance(1979)
David Bowie and Thierry Mugler were kindred spirits. Both created with a disregard for boundaries or even societal expectations. The two artists were a perfect match, pushing the limits of queer self-expression in their fields. In 1979 Bowie performed in a Mugler dress during an appearance on SNL. That same year, Bowie also wore a sequinned Mugler gown in the music video for Boys Keep Swinging.
Mugler's creative partnership with Beyoncé(2009)
Mugler served as Artistic Director on Beyoncé’s 2009 I Am… world tour. He collaborated with the pop star on everything from costumes to choreography, lighting and production. Beyoncé donned several looks from the Mugler archive during this particular era, including a gold corset which appeared in the Sweet Dreams music video.
Beyoncé has continued to champion the brand, even after Mugler went into retirement, and in 2020 she wore a rainbow printed jersey Mugler dress with matching gloves and hosiery in the BLACK IS KING video, MY POWER. The artist is currently paying homage to her former collaborator via her official website.
George Michael’s Too Funky music video(1992)
Mugler was behind the camera and costumes for George Michael’s Too Funky music video. The 1992 visual took several cues from Michael’s Freedom! 90 video and features a who’s who of 90s supermodels including Tyra Banks, Linda Evangelista and Beverly Peele.
Cardi B's archive looks at the Grammy Awards(2019)
Cardi B has worn a collection’s worth of Mugler looks over the years, ranging from this deep red Jessica Rabbit-esque sequin dress through to this ethereal sheer piece. Cardi took her love for the label and its founder to the next step at the 2019 Grammy Awards. The Bronx-born artist mined the Mugler vault for the occasion, resurrecting archive creations for the red carpet. This vintage oyster shell dress – dubbed ‘the Birth of Venus’ – is taken from Mugler’s show-stopping AW95 haute couture collection, and was worn by Cardi as her first look of the evening. It was the second time in 25 years that the house of Mugler had presented several archive looks to a celebrity. It was also the night that Cardi won Best Rap Album. A milestone event for all.
Lady Miss Kier and Deee-Lite
Mugler partied with the likes of Lady Miss Kier – the frontwoman of Deee-Lite – in the 90s. The two have been photographed together at Paris Fashion Week, and Mugler outfitted the group. To return his generosity, Deee-Lite sent Mugler a remix of What Is Love in 1991 – a funky ode to the brand that name-drops Mugler. Kier also walked the runway for Mugler in the 90s, and in 1992 Deee-Lite appeared on the catwalk to their song Pussycat Meow, which was inspired by Mugler’s clothes.
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Diana Ross for the Butterfly collection(1991)
Mugler was also a friend to Diana Ross, and personally called up the star to ask her to model his 1991 Butterfly collection. Ross had one stipulation: that her then 17-year-old daughter, Tracee Ellis Ross, walked in the show too. The pair boarded a Concorde with Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell. Ross wore a black power suit – cinched at the waist and complete with shoulder pads – a sheer top, figure-sculpting latex trousers and gloves, and walked to her own track, I’m Coming Out. That was also the day of Tracee Ellis Ross’ 18th birthday. Both George Michael and Madonna were in the crowd.
Ross recently paid tribute to the late designer. “I will miss you Thierry Mugler,” she said. “This was a wonderful time in our lives.”
That time Lady Gaga wore vintage Mugler(2009)
Nicola Formichetti is someone who can count Lady Gaga as a friend, having worked closely with the singer as her stylist. In fact, the designer and Creative Director was the person behind the famous meat dress that Gaga wore to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Gaga has worked with the brand on several occasions, even starring in a SS12 campaign. A fan of the Mugler brand, Gaga also wore a vintage look – designed by Thierry Mugler – in her Telephone video.
Madonna on the cover of Life Magazine(1986)
Madonna’s style history is shaped by French designers. Most notably Jean Paul Gaultier, the mind behind her iconic cone bra. However, Mugler also dressed the pop star for a Life Magazine cover early on in her career. The star wore a gold sequinned cocktail dress from the late designer’s SS86 collection for the cover story. She’d later make appearances at his fashion shows. Her daughter, Lourdes Leon, is something of a modern-day Mugler muse, too. Leon starred alongside the likes of Bella Hadid and Amber Valletta in the fashion house’s most recent fashion film, which was soundtracked by Total Freedom.