It’s not often you get to see genuinely iconic gowns pass through your local mall, but such was the case last week when five stunning dresses by Thierry Mugler were on display at The Room at the Bay’s Queen Street Toronto flagship (itself a home to some of the most exciting contemporary fashion). The gowns were part of a travelling exhibit celebrating the 20th anniversary of Angel, the French designer’s first, and most famous, scent. After their brief stop in Toronto, the quintet has now landed in Montreal, where they will be on show at the Bay’s downtown store until November 25.
On hand to take us on a tour of the gowns was Christophe De Lataillade, creative director of Parfums Thierry Mugler, who has been a part of Angel from the beginning. (Not to be confused with Nicolas Formichetti, Lady Gaga collaborator and creative director of the Mugler fashion house.) Though the gourmand mix of vanilla, bergamot, caramel and cotton candy is now one of the best-selling fragrances in the world, De Lataillade said that Mugler’s vision of a blue liquid in a star-shaped bottle seemed impossible at the time–nonsense, even.
Even the ads for Angel seem impossible in their contradiction–sensual women ensconced in icy, otherworldly environments. In the 1995 campaign, Jerry Hall wears a silvery sequin gown from Mugler’s first couture collection while stretching across an expanse of cold sand that with a squint of the eye could just as readily be a sea of satin sheets. (A tidbit: According to De Lataillade, Hall arrived at the shoot in the New Mexico desert riding in a white, 1950s limousine that also carried her Louis Vuitton trunks, stuffed with lingerie.)
Also on display is the blue tulle starburst dress worn by Naomi Watts in 2008, a jumpsuit for Amy Wesson covered in the same crystal used to create Angel’s famous bottle, and a strapless, sequin-covered creation for the most recent campaign, with Eva Mendes. Perhaps the most jaw-dropping gown in a lineup of jaw-dropping gowns is the one created for the 2003 campaign with Hungarian model Anna Maria Cseh. Its black velvet bodice is sliced and splayed open like geode, displaying a train of purple, blue and silver spike crystals. It’s at once sensually revealing and physically alienating (the dress weighs 110 pounds and Cseh needed protective padding to wear it). An impossible gown for an impossible scent.