As we're sure you've all heard, last week we lost our beloved Manfred Thierry Mugler, the ingenious and unapologetically gay, ground-breaking French fashion designer at age 73. Over the years, Mugler has married S & M and steampunk, to the camp and couture and along with other visionaries such as Alexander McQueen who was responsible for some of the most iconic and mind-blowing outfits of the past few decades.
Today, we at Goldsmith Vintage remember an icon and take a brief look at what made him a pioneer, an innovator and what will forever cement his position as a legend in the hearts and minds of the LGBTQ community.
In 1973 at the age of 25, ballet dancer turned designer, Mugler created his first personal collection which he named “Café de Paris”, swiftly followed by the launch of his eponymously titled fashion house. His unrestrained designs defined the OTT style of the 1980s and he was no stranger to wasp-waisted latex, erotic leather and a pair of other-wordly shoulder pads.
He quickly made his mark as the king of dark, fetishistic and elegant outfits, ones that made his already statuesque models into something between walking works of art and evil queens straight out of a Disney adaptation (Maleficent would love to make an entrance like one of his models). Thierry Mugler turned those who wore his clothes into untouchable, angular alien goddesses and gods with shimmering, darkly luxuriant materials and sublime detailing.
As well as dressing the top models of the day, Mugler created signature looks for idols such as Madonna, George Michael, Bowie and Grace Jones. He was also a pioneer at embracing queerness and inclusivity through his valiant casting choices for his runway shows at a time when doing so was unheard of. Mugler created a platform where the biggest music legends and supermodels of the era intermingled with transfeminine models, drag queens and sex workers of all ages and races.
Teri Toye, widely considered the first out trans model opened a 1984 show. In the '90s, Brazilian trans model Roberta Close and black trans model Connie Fleming walked for Mugler with Fleming also appearing alongside Tyra Banks and Linda Evangelista in George Michael's video “Too Funky” which was directed by Mugler himself. She was quoted as saying to Interview Magazine, "Me being on Mugler’s runway, that should have been the end of his business. People thought no one would ever buy from him anymore. But his business did not go up in smoke."
"People knew but you didn’t really talk about it. “It was considered not chic. And here he was sending drag queens like Lypsinka down the runway." said Paul Cavaco, previously a fashion director at Harper’s Bazaar, to the New York Times.
Despite his enormous success, Mugler retired from the world of fashion in 2002, but returned to his brand in 2013 as creative advisor. After consistently turning down invitations for retrospectives, he eventually agreed to a show, 'Thierry Mugler, Couturissime,' which first opened in 2019 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, (currently on view at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris) and celebrates his wildly successful career within the worlds of fashion and art.
It's opening corresponded with a return to public life with long time fan, Kim Kardashian wearing his first piece in 20 years which took over eight months to produce to the Met Gala, a one-off latex, corset dress adorned with thousands of crystals.
This marked a momentous resurgence in interest in Mugler amongst big names and Goldsmith Vintage favourites such as Lady Gaga, (in her video for 'Telephone'), Beyonce for her 'I Am...' world tour and of course, Cardi B who is often to be seen on the red carpet in vintage Mugler and shared a strong bond and friendship with the designer.
Thierry Mugler pushed boundaries with what was possible with his dazzling take on beauty and fashion at a time when it was highly risky to do so and as such, trans and queer communities will be forever indebted to the unique brand of art that he brought to the world.
The press release on his Instagram account quoting him as saying, "I have dedicated my life to the most beautiful ‘animal’ on earth: the human being. I know beauty can save the world."
Thierry Mugler, we salute you.
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