By Christopher Turner
On Sunday night, it was announced that famed French fashion designer Manfred Thierry Mugler died at the age of 73. A cause of death has not been confirmed.
His death was announced on his personal Instagram account, sharing a black square with a statement written in both English and French.
“We are devastated to announce the passing of Mr Manfred Thierry Mugler on Sunday January 23rd 2022. May his soul Rest In Peace,” the caption read.
The designer’s eponymous fashion house also confirmed his passing on Instagram, describing him as a “visionary whose imagination as a couturier, perfumer and image-maker empowered people around the world to be bolder and dream bigger every day.”
Mugler launched his fashion brand in 1973 and quickly became known for his futuristic and sculptural designs, which was often defined by broad shoulders and a tiny waist. His flamboyant creations transformed haute couture and the use of plastic-like futuristic fabrics in many of his sculpted designs became his trademark. Of course, his influence was felt far beyond the catwalk and he created films, studied photography and was a dancer, acrobat as well as avid body-builder, stressing that he always wanted to explore the human body as art.
Throughout his 50-year career, Mugler worked with some of the biggest celebrities in the world including Madonna, Diana Ross, Grace Jones, David Bowie, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Demi Moore, Kim Kardashian, Linda Evangelista, Zendaya, and Cardi B.
In celebration of the life and career of Manfred Thierry Mugler, here are ten things that you might not have known about the renowned French fashion icon.
1. Manfred Thierry Mugler was born on December 21, 1948 in Strasbourg, France. His father was a doctor, while the designer described his mother as “the most elegant woman in their town.” As a child, he spent his time making costumes, writing dramas and watching films. He attended the School of Fine Arts in Strasbourg and began to study classic dance at the age of 9, joining the ballet corps for the Rhin Opera (Opéra national du Rhin) at the age of 14.
2. Mugler moved to Paris at the age of 24 and officially started his career designing clothes for Parisian boutique, Gudule. Two years later he began working as a freelance designer and began to design for a variety of ready-to-wear fashion houses in Paris, Milan, London and Barcelona. He finally launched his own fashion brand (Thierry Mugler) in 1973, opening his first Paris boutique in 1978.
3. Mugler became an internationally recognized designer during the 1980s and 1990s, often grouped with Claude Montana and Azzedine Alaïa. As a designer he found inspiration in everything from ’40s glamour to late ’70s sci-fi, insects, vampires, mermaids and beyond. The fashion press at the time hailed the designer for his shapely suits and sublime garments, as well as his extravagant fashion shows and surreal sci-fi themes.
4. In 1992 George Michael hired Mugler to shoot the video for his upcoming single “Too Funky” that appeared on the Red Hot + Dance compilation album that was made to raise money for AIDS research. Mugler designed and created the costumes for the models (Eva Herzigova, Linda Evangelista, Nadja Auermann, Emma Sjöberg, Estelle Hallyday, Shana Zadrick, Tyra Banks, Beverly Peele, as well as actresses Julie Newmar and Rossy de Palma, and the performance artists Joey Arias and Lypsinka) to wear at a fictitious runway show in the in the song’s music video. But the video shoot famously turned to chaos and Mugler’s role as director was thrown into pop culture history.
Mugler told Numero magazine in 2017: “He [George Michael] said he didn’t want to be in it, unlike all his other videos….The next morning, I arrived on set, where almost 500 people were waiting: one hell of a team, dancers from all over the world, from Japan and Australia, all the top models – Linda, Eva, Nadja, Tyra. Then George rocks up at 9am and says contrary to everything we’d agreed on, he wanted shots of him in the video. I told him that was impossible, that the story-board was all sewn up, but I knew he took it badly. On the last day of the shoot he lost it and summoned the whole team to announce: ‘Mugler is fired. Now I’m the director’.”
The cast famously threatened to walk out amongst the chaos, compromises were made and the video was released with a “Directed by ?” credit at the end. Mugler and Michael didn’t speak for years.
5. Mugler created Demi Moore’s memorable black cut-out dress for Adrian Lyne’s 1993 hit film Indecent Proposal starring Robert Redford, Woody Harrelson and Moore. The dress, with Mugler’s signature graphic neckline, sparked a legion of scrappy copycats and was once coined “the most famous dress of the 1990s”.
6. Mugler’s looks were transformed by a series of surgeries that followed a serious accident that smashed his nose and chin. It happened either in a Jeep crash or at the gym, according to various interviews he gave over the years. While Mugler said changing his face was initially only about reconstruction, he admitted the situation changed to being more about “fun and pleasing myself” as he underwent more and more facial surgery. He said his ongoing surgery resonated with his “architectural research” and helped him “to go further and higher.”
7. Mugler launched his perfume collection in 1992 with Angel, which came in a bottle in the shape of a faceted star. In 1996, Mugler followed up Angel with a male version named Angel Men or A*Men and in 2005, Alien was created, the second major Thierry Mugler fragrance for women. The widely popular scents can still be found in virtually every major department store and bring in about $280 million in sales annually.
8. After designing for over 30 years, Mugler retired from fashion in 2003 and began going by his first name (Manfred). He announced that he would shift his priorities to perfume, photography and extensive bodybuilding. When asked about the subject, he said: “Fashion is beautiful, 3-D art on a human being. But it wasn’t enough, which is why I went on to create in other ways. For me, it wasn’t the right tool anymore. But perfume still interests me.”
Mugler’s fashion house went under the direction of Nicola Formichetti, who styled plenty of A-list celebrities as its artistic director including Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Rihanna and more. In 2010, Formichetti changed the brand name to MUGLER, removing the first name.
9. Even though Mugler threw in the towel on House of Mugler in 2003, one A-list star was able to convince him to briefly come out of retirement in 2019. He designed Kim Kardashian’s iconic sheer sexy dress that dripped with jewels for the 2019 MET Gala. Mugler got his inspiration from Sophia Loren in the film Boy on a Dolphin, Mugler envisioned a wet California girl; hence the creation of the “wet couture dress”
“This is the first time in 20 years Mr. Mugler has designed for the House of Mugler,” Kardashian told Vogue at the time. “So to come and design this gown for me is such an honour. This is about eight months in the making. He envisioned me this California girl stepping out of the ocean, wet, dripping.”
10. In 2019, Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts unveiled the exhibition “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime,” giving audiences a rare glimpse into the singular designer’s fearless universe and extensive archives.
“What I wanted to showcase here was a collaboration and a celebration of his work, but also to remind audiences that Mugler belongs to a generation that is all about creation and freedom,” said “Couturissime” curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot at the time. “Today there is a lot of censorship in some aspects of the fashion world, and like so many industries, it all comes down to how many ‘likes’ you’re going to get on social media — just like some kind of popularity contest. But Mugler never followed trends. He made them.”