Thierry Mugler - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

French designer

Born: Strasbourg, Alsace, France, 1948. Education: Studied at the Lycée Fustel de Coulange, 1960-65, and at the School of Fine Arts, Strasbourg, 1966-67. Career: Dancer, Opéra de Rhin, Strasbourg, 1965-66; assistant designer, Gudule boutique, Paris, 1966-67; professional photographer, from 1967; designer, André Peters, London, 1968-69; freelance designer, Milan, Paris, 1970-73; created Café de Paris fashion collection, Paris, 1973; founder, Thierry Mugler, 1974, owner, from 1986; published Thierry Mugler, Photographer, Paris, London & New York, 1988; Thierry Mugler Perfumes, created 1990; Angel fragrance introduced, 1992; first couture collection shown, 1992; worked on film Prêt-á-Porter, 1994. Address: 130 rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, 75008 Paris, France.




Thierry Mugler, Photographer, Paris, London & New York, 1988.



Polhemus, Ted, and Lynn Proctor, Fashion and Anti Fashion, London, 1978.

Martin, Richard, Fashion and Surrealism, New York, 1987.

Martin, Richard, and Harold Koda, Infra-Apparel, New York, 1993.

Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York, 1996.

Wargnier, Stéphanie, Thierry Mugler, Paris, 1997.

Baudot, François, Thierry Mugler, London, 1997, 1998.

Thierry Mugler, spring/summer 2001 collection. © AP/Wide World Photos.
Thierry Mugler, spring/summer 2001 collection.
© AP/Wide World Photos.

Deloffre, Claudi, Thierry Mugler: Fashion Fetish Fantasy, Los Angeles, 1998.


Kuka, John, "Notes on Fashion," in the New York Times, 4 August 1981.

Morris, Bernadine, "The Directions of the Innovations," in the New York Times Magazine, 27 February 1983.

LaLanne, Dorothee, "Thierry Mugler et Macbeth," in Vogue (Paris), November 1985.

Trittoleno, Martine, "Thierry Mugler: L'Homme qui aimait les légendes," in L'Officie l (Paris), November 1986.

Morris, Bernadine, "Japanese Excitement in Paris," in the New York Times, 20 March 1987.

Gasperini, Nicoletta, "Traveling Goddesses," in Joyce (Hong Kong), March 1988.

Mory, Frederique, "De la mode á la photo," in Madame Figaro (Paris), 2 July 1988.

Baudot, François; "Double objectif de Thierry Mugler," in Elle (Paris), 7 November 1988.

Hochswender, Woody, "Thierry Mugler: Nuts, Bolts and Sequins," in the New York Times, 18 March 1989.

——, "Stripping Down to Basics," in the New York Times, 24 October 1989.

Moutet, Anne-Elisabeth, "Hocus Focus," in Harper's Bazaar, June 1990.

Gross, Michael, "The Wild One," in New York, 4 June 1990.

Wrobel, Catherine, "Mugler á Moscou," in France-Soir (Paris), 26 June 1990.

"Mugler, Clarins Link for a Scent," in WWD, 28 September 1990.

Forestier, Nadége, "Thierry Mugler: L'Art de se faire une griffe," in Le Figaro (Paris), 6 October 1990.

Polan, Brenda, "Mugler," in Elle (Paris), December 1990.

von Unwerth, Ellen, "How to Look Good in Thierry Mugler," in Interview (New York), March 1991.

Martin, Richard, "Fashion License: Clothing and the Car," in Textile and Text, 13 April 1991.

Morris, Bernadine, "Voyages into Uncharted Waters," in the New York Times, 19 October 1991.

"Mugler's Monster Show," in Elle (New York), November 1991.

Morris, Bernadine, "Designer in Paris Seeks a Shake-Up," in the New York Times, 27 March 1992.

Yarbrough, Jeff, "Thierry Mugler Talks Trends," in the Advocate (USA), 21 April 1992.

Spindler, Amy, "Monsieur Mugler," in WWD, 22 July 1992.

Morris, Bernadine, "Calm and Classy vs. Bluntly Sexual," in the New York Times, 31 July 1992.

Casadio, Mauriccia, "Six Haute Designers: Pure Allure," in Interview (New York), December 1992.

Brubach, Holly, "Whose Vision is It, Anyway?" in the New York Times Magazine, 17 July 1994.

Spindler, Amy M., "Thierry Mugler on a Roll," in the New York Times, 18 October 1994.

——, "Waiting for Mugler," in the New York Times, 27 December 1994.

"The Paris Collections: The Ideas of March: Thierry Mugler," in WWD, 17 March 1995.

Spindler, Amy M., "A Mature Mugler, Demeulemeester, and Lang," in the New York Times, 18 March 1995.

Luscombe, Belinda, "Running Wild on the Runway," in Time, 27 March 1995.

Gaudoin, Tina, "Very Thierry," in Elle (London), April 1995.

Spindler, Amy M., "In Paris, Ready for Their Close-Ups," in the New York Times, 14 October 1995.

——, "Giving More Weight to Lightness," in the New York Times, 24 January 1997.

"Clarins in Talks with Fashion House," in the New York Times, 18 April 1997.

White, Constance C. R., "Touches of Spice in a Tepid Stew," in the New York Times, 27 January 1998.

——, "Breezy Gaultier and Yamamoto," in the New York Times, 17 March 1998.


Rich in iconography, the work of Thierry Mugler has, since 1974, exploited wit and drama to convey an imaginary narrative that is at once erotic, amusing, and unsettling. His clothing spans the spectrum from vulgar ornamentalism to the most rigorous minimalism, denying the possibility of defining a Mugler style.

Born in 1948 in Strasbourg, Mugler was a child prodigy at the city's School of Fine Arts. At the age of 14, he began dancing with the

Thierry Mugler, fall/winter 2001-02 ready-to-wear collection. © AP/Wide World Photos.
Thierry Mugler, fall/winter 2001-02 ready-to-wear collection.
© AP/Wide World Photos.
Rhine Opera Ballet. By 20, he had moved to Paris to begin work as an assistant designer for the Gudule boutique. Later he would design for André Peters in London before freelancing for other fashion houses in Milan and Paris. In 1973, he created his first label, Café de Paris, which featured dresses made of muslin and trimmed with fox. Mugler founded his own brand the following year and opened his own shop.

It is Mugler's imagery that most clearly identifies him within high fashion. His sources include Hollywood glamor, science fiction, sexual fetishism, political history, Detroit car styling of the 1950s, and various periods in the history of art and decoration. In this way, his work reflects the eclecticism of the art world during the 1970s and 1980s. Mugler has taken a particular delight in industrial styling, which he displayed in the precise geometries of ornamental detail and through his vocabulary of thematic references, which have included the jet age forms used in the fantastic automobiles devised by Harley Earl for General Motors during the 1950s.

Clothing designs that operate as costumes in a dramatic narrative have reinforced the importance of Mugler's link with the cinema and particularly with the American film costumes of designers such as Edith Head, Travis Banton, and Adrian. A love of glamor was evident in his extravagant 1992 collection, redolent of 1950s fashion at its most lavish and photographed among the Baroque roof sculptures of the old city of Prague. His interest in romance and the bizarre has often run counter to political ideologies. Against a backdrop of feminist reinterpretation of the female image, Mugler adopted an ironic, postmodern stance and exploited an array of erotic icons as themes for his collections.

Women who favor Mugler are often those who find themselves encased in rigid materials such as leather, latex, rubber, plastic, plexiglas, and chrome. Therefore, it is no surprise that Mugler is a big favorite of those involved in the corset and fetish worlds. His designs range from the insectoid to the medieval, from the fantastic to the science fictional. His "Carapace" ensemble, created from sculpted and embossed leather and silk chiffon, trimmed with beads and feathers, upon which he collaborated with leather designer Abel Villareal, resembles nothing if not the body armor of a medieval knight.

The London-based House of Harlot often works with Mugler to create outfits and accessories for his catwalk shows. Few if any designers have used rubber in such a provocative and consequential way. He has also worked with everything from taffeta, lace, muslin, and raffia to coconut fibers, chrome, latex, and color-changing, temperature-sensitive plastic. Difficult to characterize and appearing to work in opposition to current fashion and intellectual trends, Mugler has remained a controversial figure on the fashion scene.

Mugler's photographic talent may prove to be as important as his fashion designs. A book of his photographs, Thierry Mugler, Photographer, published in 1988, contained images comparable in their artifice, explosive glamor, and formal control to the cinematic images of Peter Greenaway. His photographs exploit grand vistas, deep interior spaces, and heroic monuments as settings upon which models perch like tiny ornaments, strongly defined by the extravagant outline of their costumes and asserting their presence through dramatic pose and gesture. His fashion photographs provide a narrative framework for Mugler's clothes, while relegating them to the role of costume within a larger dramatic context.

The broad-shouldered Russian collection of 1986, for example, was presented against backgrounds of heroic Soviet monuments or sweeping landscapes reminiscent of earlier 20th-century Social Realist painting and poster art. Mugler has also made photographic collages repeating and emphasizing the formal elements of his clothes in kaleidoscopic compositions that revealed his interest in abstract aesthetics. These images were conceived as pure works of art, in which the clothing became an element of the creative whole.

Not content to dabble just in clothing design and photography, Mugler introduced his first fragrance in 1993. Called Angel, it is a blue-hued, oriental scent with essences of chocolate, caramel, honey, and vanilla with sensual wooded notes. Favored by music diva Diana Ross, the scent comes in a five-pointed star-shaped bottle. A second fragrance, Amen, followed some years later.

In 1994, Mugler worked on the film Prêt-á-Porter, starring Julia Roberts and Tim Robbins, a complicated film following about a half-dozen plots, all circling around the death of a much-hated leader in the fashion world.

Mugler's clothes are designed to be performed in. His major catwalk shows—featuring top models such as Esther Canadas— beginning in 1977, have been choreographed like the great Hollywood musicals of Busby Berkeley. Later exhibitions were held in huge sports stadiums, emulating the highly charged atmosphere of rock concerts. Mugler designs the offstage wardrobes of rock celebrities such as Madonna, as well as dressing famous women like Danielle Mitterand, who require a more dignified appearance. His fall 2000 showing at the Louvre mixed demure organza and georgette evening dresses with outlandish latex and fluorescent creations.

Whether aggressively vulgar or caricatures of sobriety, Mugler's designs are consistently body conscious. His clothes can be read as essays in the aesthetic potential of extreme proportions; shoulder widths three times head height, wasp waists, and panniered hips are among the repertoire of distortions and exaggerations of the human figure to be found among his designs. Mugler's annual collections, for both women and men, consistently aim to provoke through their challenging themes and flamboyant formal qualities.

—Gregory Votolato;

updated by Daryl F. Mallett

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