A peculiar cyborg creature—a half motorcycle and half cowgirl, with a leather whip to boot—provides a nostalgic greeting at the From Thierry Mugler to MUGLER retrospective, on display at The Room at The Bay in Vancouver. “Too Funky!”, many exclaimed as they approached the mannequin, referring to the 1992 George Michael video in which the ensemble appeared. The exhibition is a rare chance to come face to face with Thierry Mugler’s legendary work. The designer, dubbed by the French media as the “createur du shoc” (creator of shock), very much defined the 1990s aesthetic–when amazons ruled fashion pages and stomped runways–and retired at the beginning of the new millennium.
These days, the name Mugler is again part of our fashion discourse. The label is now helmed by creative director Nicola Formichetti and womenswear designer Sébastien Peigné, who were in Vancouver to discuss the enduring influence of Thierry Mugler and how the Mugler woman has changed. “It was Jerry Hall,” laughs Formichetti, thinking of the barely-there sequin “Angel” gown from the 1995 fragrance advertisement. Often the notion of wearabilty wasn’t a priority for Thierry Mugler.
“We want to go in a much more urban and street feeling. We are inspired by people on the street, our friends, cool girls. The feeling of the red carpet, the big dresses: it was great, Hollywood and fantasy, [but] it feels like that’s from the past,” explains Formichetti. “We are in the different time now, and the idea of a couturier is not a contemporary one.” “It’s more about special pieces,” adds Peigné, referring to their flamboyant work with Lady Gaga.
Perhaps the most flamboyant of the garments on display is ‘Monster’, a gown circa 1997 with a metallic insect-like bodice and draped in scales, ending with long strings of black horsehair, so as to hide its claws. The idea of an alien and a cyborg, or what Formichetti refers to as “retro-futuristic fantasy,” was a prevalent one for Thierry Mugler, something the duo are determined to preserve, as seen in their handbags for Spring 2013. “They look more like a weapon, almost carrying the DNA of the museum pieces.” When asked about whether they are looking to expand the accessories line, Formichetti revealed their plans of adding shoes to the collection, beyond the runway. “The first collection we did, everyone fell,” laughs Formichetti. “Gaga was running basically—but she’s a dancer.” They promise the footwear will be wearable. Four decades later, and perhaps the Mugler alien has finally grown accustomed to living on Earth.
Both in their 30s, Formichetti and Peigné were first introduced to Thierry Mugler’s work as teenagers. Peigné remembers watching the televised event of Mugler’s 20th anniversary at Parisian’s Cirque d’ Hivers in 1995, where the original supermodels Linda, Claudia and Naomi glided down the runway wearing some of the astonishing gowns on display. “It was amazing. I was dreaming that one day I would do the same.”
“Oh, so cute,” Formichetti jokingly mocks, but then he recalls his first Mugler moment as being the “Too Funky” video. He has high hopes for his own legacy, adding that the way our generation talks about George Michael’s video as the introduction to the label is akin to the way people twenty years from now will talk about seeing Gaga wearing Mugler on her The Fame Monster album cover. Thierry Mugler may have provided Demi Moore with the infamous little black dress in Indecent Proposal, but Formichetti has bigger cinematic plans in mind. “I’m basically after Star Wars — it’s so exciting.”