Thierry Mugler changed the look of music, theatre and politics

The designer never restricted himself to the catwalk, as our new book Thierry Mugler: Couturissime shows
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Thierry Mugler, stage costume for the character of First Witch. 1985, Macbeth production. © CNCS Pascal François
Thierry Mugler, stage costume for the character of First Witch. 1985, Macbeth production. © CNCS Pascal François

Though widely revered among fashion designers, Thierry Mugler’s designs have influenced aspects of contemporary culture well beyond boutique and fashion-week runway. Here are just a few ways in which the Frenchman’s work has changed the world, courtesy of our forthcoming book Thierry Mugler: Couturissime.

 

 

David Bowie in his Mugler dress, Boys Keep Swinging video, 1979
David Bowie in his Mugler dress, Boys Keep Swinging video, 1979

Music In 1979, David Bowie reasserted his position as pop music’s leading androgyne, thanks to Mugler’s dresses. The singer wore a mermaid-style sequined gown in the video for his Boys Keep Swinging single, and for his Saturday Night Live performance in December of that year, Bowie’s fellow performers Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias both went with Mugler dresses.

 

From left: Joey Aria in his Mugler dress, David Bowie in his '‘Chinese airline stewardess' outfit, Klaus Nomi in his Mugler dress. Saturday Night Live, December 1979
From left: Joey Aria in his Mugler dress, David Bowie in his '‘Chinese airline stewardess' outfit, Klaus Nomi in his Mugler dress. Saturday Night Live, December 1979

“The SNL performance was also how Klaus and I got to know Thierry Mugler,” Arias recalls in our new book. “David gave me and Klaus $1,000 each and told us to go out and buy costumes for the show. We were looking all over the place. We knew we wanted to look futuristic and utilitarian, but couldn’t find the right looks. We couldn’t find shit! Finally, we went to Bendels after searching all day, and went right to the women’s department.

"We told the woman there we were looking for something black and something red and she said, ‘Well, we just put them away, but we have these Thierry Mugler pieces.’ We loved them right away. David was really into them too and had an outfit made to go with ours. I called his outfit the ‘Chinese airline stewardess’ outfit. His band was so not excited, though. They were like, ‘David, no, no no!’ He was supposed to be wearing a suit for SNL, but he saw our dresses and said, ‘Ooh! I want to match up with you guys!’ He gave some orders to someone and a couple hours later they came back with this stewardess blazer and skirt for him.”

 

Jack Lang in his Mugler suit, 1985
Jack Lang in his Mugler suit, 1985

Politics In April 1985 the French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, sparked a scandal by appearing at a sitting of the National Assembly, where wearing a tie is mandatory, in a Mugler-designed black suit with a Mao collar.

“This causes great astonishment and hilarity among the deputies,” explains our new book, “and his suit is variously described by some journalists as ‘eccentric,’ or being a look for ‘a vaguely Islamic clergyman.’ The incident even makes the national headlines.” Yet perhaps Lang had the last laugh. The minister helped promote French fashion; the assembly’s dress rules have since been relaxed; and Lang remains one of Mugler’s allies; the politician contributes a chapter on Thierry’s photography to our new book.

 

Thierry Mugler, Witches sketches of stage costumes for La Tragédie de Macbeth, felt pen, watercolor, graphite on paper. Paris, collections Comédie-Française
Thierry Mugler, Witches sketches of stage costumes for La Tragédie de Macbeth, felt pen, watercolor, graphite on paper. Paris, collections Comédie-Française

Theatre Having started out as a dancer, Mugler always retained an interest in theatrical costumes. In 1985, he designed the costumes for the Comédie-Française production of Macbeth. The show received the theatre’s largest budget ever, and won praise from critics and followers of fashion alike. In 2002, Mugler moved to New York to focus on costumes, working on Zumanity, the first and only Cirque du Soleil show for adults only; that racy show is still playing in Las Vegas. And in 2013, he produced Mugler Follies - a new kind of revue that focused on fantastic costumes and ran for around two years at Le Théâtre Comédia in Paris. For this show, designer not only created the costumes, but also wrote most of the show’s songs, proving a that fashion can be elevated to the position of high art, given the right talent and appropriate stage.

 

Thierry Mugler: Couturissime

For more on Mugler’s wild life and wilder creations order a copy of Thierry Mugler: Couturissime here.


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