Manfred Thierry Mugler, the avant-garde French fashion designer famed for his extravagant runway shows and for dressing the likes of Grace Jones, Demi Moore, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Céline Dion and Kim Kardashian West has died. He was 73.
The Mugler brand’s official Instagram account revealed the designer’s death on Sunday. “#RIP. We are devastated to announce the passing of Mr. Manfred Thierry Mugler on Sunday January 23rd 2022. May his soul Rest In Peace,” said the caption to the post.
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His agent told AFP that Mugler had died of “natural causes,” and was planning on announcing new collaborations this week.
Breaking into the French fashion scene in the 1970s, Mugler became one of the dominant names in the industry by the 1980s. His bold and sexually confident clothes with powerful broad-shouldered and slim-waisted silhouettes became a sensation, defining the era of “power dressing,” and his runway shows, which famously drew inspiration from such varied things as robots, mermaids, cars and insects, were must-see events.
Manfred Thierry Mugler was born in Strasbourg, France in December 1948. As a teenager, Mugler studied drawing, interior design and dance, with career aspirations in the latter. He moved to Paris to pursue a career in ballet but found his calling in fashion, quickly gaining a reputation for the clothes he had designed for himself. He freelanced as a stylist for a few years, before showing his first collection under the Café de Paris name in 1973. He launched his eponymous label the following year.
Inspired by the likes of Cristóbal Balenciaga and Christian Dior, Mugler went against the prevailing trends in Paris high fashion at the time, focusing his energy on distinctly Parisian items such as the little black dress and the trench coat, adding a modern and confident twist on those classics.
With the backing of powerful fashion editor Melka Tréanton, Mugler quickly rose to prominence, gaining wide notoriety for his collections that mainstreamed the padded-shoulders and plunging necklines that perfectly captured the power and excess of the 1980s.
Jamaican actress-model Grace Jones was an early muse, as was Joey Arias, and Mugler became a favorite of a host of A-listers, including David Bowie, Diana Ross and Jerry Hall. At the zenith of his career, Mugler began to branch outside Paris fashion, designing the costumes for the George Michael music video “Too Funky” in 1992. He also designed the iconic black gown Demi Moore wore in the 1993 movie, Indecent Proposal.
To the world outside high fashion, Mugler was known for his line of fragrances, including the phenomenally successful perfumes Angel and Alien, launched in 1992 and 2005 respectively, that both outlived the ready-to-wear line.
From his early years, Mugler saw the runway shows as a chance to dazzle his audience and along with contemporaries such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, pioneered the concept of the theatrical themed presentation, influencing later designers such as John Galliano and Alexander McQueen.
Many of Mugler’s presentations are still talked about with hushed reverence including his chrome and fembot Fall/Winter haute couture show of 1995 and the insect-influenced Les Insectes Spring/Summer 1997. Both collections showed Mugler, the elder statesman by this point in his career, as a match for the upstarts Galliano and McQueen.
With fashion moving increasingly in a corporate direction, Mugler retired from his own label in 2002, a year before the brand’s owner, the fragrance and cosmetics giant Clarins, shuttered the Mugler ready-to-wear line. Though he stepped back from frontline fashion, Mugler continued to work, creating one-off pieces and costumes for the likes of Lady Gaga and Cardi B as well as costuming Beyoncé for her Sasha Fierce tour and related music videos.
In 2019, he designed Kim Kardashian’s Met Gala dress, a latex and crystals “dripping wet” dress that took eight months to make. More recently, he created Megan Fox’s dress for the 2021 Video Music Awards.