24 sep 2021

Thierry Mugler at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs: meeting with the legendary designer

The great designer Thierry Mugler was inspired by his past as a dancer to give impetus to the innovative idea of unforgettable fashion shows. In turn designer, photographer, director, this visionary collaborated with the most creative minds of his time. From the 70s to the 2000s, from Jerry Hall to Pat Cleveland and Iman, her abundant imagination transformed her mythical muses into eternal superheroines. In this exclusive series of photos of his archival pieces, taken by Colin Solal Cardo, Numéro pays tribute to the couturier who has become a legend today, a couturier who will also be at the heart of a retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs from September 30.

Numéro: What was the genesis of this exhibition, initiated by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and which is coming to the MAD this fall?


Manfred Thierry Mugler: The starting point was my meeting with Nathalie Bondil [ex-directrice et conservatrice en chef du musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal] who suggested that I do not a retrospective, but something I have always wanted to do: an exhibition that is also a creation. So we decided to do this opera together.


Thierry-Maxime Loriot [commissaire de l’exposition] : The challenge was colossal, but fascinating, because few archives had been exhibited, or even photographed, following the shows. There was a myth around Mugler’s creations, because no one had access to them. In two years of research, I was fascinated to discover the work of a complete artist who perceived fashion as a means of expression that embellished people’s daily lives, but as a jack-of-all-trades, something unique to this day for a couturier, creator, perfumer, photographer, director and director.


Manfred, fashion was indeed part of a total show for you. Does the exhibition claim to demonstrate this aspect?


Manfred Thierry Mugler:  Fashion allows you to tell stories, just like a show or photographs. Fashion is a unique art, close to humans, in motion, in 3D, silent but very eloquent. I’m a director, I see fashion from above, from afar, I take into account the whole context. That’s why I put fashion in music, on stage, in action, in sketches.


Thierry-Maxime, do you make it a point of honour to highlight the man of show and dance that is Manfred Thierry Mugler, in order to better understand his very personal creativity?


Thierry-Maxime Loriot : Manfred Thierry Mugler has always been inspired by the stage. He wanted to make human beings more glorious, stronger, to give them the freedom to be whoever they want. While grunge and minimalism dominated, he dressed women in latex and made them wear 12 cm heels. Her strict suits with superheroine shoulders and corseted waists dress a sublimated, powerful and sensual woman. He suffered from being singled out at the time, from being misunderstood. But his prophetic vision of fashion was eventually recognized, as it has inspired several current couturiers. In fact, he was totally ahead of his time! He has often been described as futuristic, because he experimented with avant-garde techniques or materials such as glass, Plexiglas, but also materials that are not considered “noble” such as PVC, vinyl, latex, faux fur, chrome… all developed in his workshops-laboratories.


Manfred, thanks to your way of considering fashion as a performing art, you have revealed your models and muses as real performers.


Manfred Thierry Mugler:  I was very inspired by the superwomen, heroines and fighters who walked for me and who embodied my characters. Some were already stage animals. There were no real rehearsals, but I made them listen to the music of the show, which changed its tone several times. Then I’d add jingles, crows, bells, and suddenly the girls, for example, would start walking in slow motion. I was very lucky to meet Jerry Hall, Cyd Charisse and Pat Cleveland, who was a real poet of interpretation. I was amazed by the confidence of women like Katoucha, Dauphine de Jerphanion or Violeta Sanchez. They were virtuosos of this art of the catwalk: walking is a much more extraordinary thing than you think, especially when you are on high heels and blinded by flashes…


You created your Angel perfume from scratch, which has remained a best-seller in perfumery. How do you explain this exceptional longevity?


Manfred Thierry Mugler:  I think I invented a category that didn’t exist: gourmets. I wanted to find a common feeling for a wide variety of people. I thought about childhood, tenderness, love and sensuality. I wanted essences of chocolate, cotton candy. The bottle was a true crystal performance, which was rejected by many manufacturers. We were in the middle of a wave of quite cheap and “funny” perfumes, I took the opposite view by looking for a high quality fragrance and bottle. Then I told myself that such quality could not be thrown away and that the bottles should be able to recharge their batteries. It was totally out of step with the uses of the time, and totally in line with current concerns. Angel is entirely my creation, from the juice, the bottle, to the photos that accompany it. We also did a launch against the tide: we sent the perfume, a bouquet of flowers and a note written by me to women who lived in the largest cities in France. The idea was that they would make it their own and make word-of-mouth work. We created a real relationship with the customers, and the campaigns only came later. On this desire to implement a relationship, we were also precursors of current concerns.


Exhibition Thierry Mugler, Couturissime. From September 30, 2021 to April 24, 2022 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, madparis.fr.




Collection “Cirque d’Hiver”, 1995
Haute couture collection “Les Méduses”, 1999
Collection “L’Hiver des Anges”, 1984
Haute couture collection “Les Insectes”, 1997
Collection “Cirque d’Hiver”, 1995
Collection “Les Cow-Boys”, 1992
Collection “Les Cow-Boys”, 1992
Collection “Les Cow-Boys”, 1992. Pumps, CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN.
Haute couture collection “Les Insectes”, 1997
From left to right: “Ritz” haute couture collection, 1992. Collection “Été Africain”, 1988. Collection “L’Hiver des Anges”, 1984. Collection “L’Hiver des Anges”, 1984. Haute couture collection “Les Tranchés”, 1999
Haute couture collection “Les Insectes”, 1997

All the creations presented in this series are from the MUGLER ARCHIVES collections. Models: Sokhna Cissé at Select Model. Anna Herrera at Supreme MGMT. Raya Martigny and Dustin Muchuvitz at Women360. Ella Snyder at Oui Management. Hairdressing: Yumiko Hikage at Agence Saint Germain. Make-up: Fanny at Artlist. Manicure: Lora de Sousa. Design set: Manon Everhard. Assistant directors: Nine Henny and Alexandre Martin. Videographer: James Coote. Alteration: Antoine Bernard at A-Studio. Production: Frenzy Picture. Photographer: Afif Baroudi.