Thierry Mugler returns to Paris with “Couturissime”

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It’s been 20 years since Thierry Mugler, the enfant terrible of Parisian fashion from the 80s and 90s who turned fashion shows into rock events, left his eponymous company. But he did not retire.

He designed costumes for Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity” show in Las Vegas and Beyoncé’s “I Am… World Tour” in 2010. He wrote, directed and designed “The Wyld,” a stage extravaganza that premiered in 2014 at Friedrichstadt-Palast in Berlin, “based on Nefertiti, the most incredible model of all time,” the 72-year-old said from her home in Berlin earlier this month.

But it was the recent adoption by pop culture of Mr. Mugler’s mind-blowing fashion – tailor-made for the Instagram age – that got him back into the cultural conversation. For the 2019 Grammys, Mr. Mugler dressed Cardi B in three of her vintage glamazon pieces, including the 1995 Venus dress: a black velvet sheath that bursts at the waist into a pink satin scalloped shell to frame a sequined bodysuit. champagne color. And in 2019, he designed Kim Kardashian’s Met Gala look: a corseted, crystal-studded latex confection made to match her skin tone that looks wet.

Almost all of them will be exhibited in “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime”, a multimedia exhibition which will open Thursday, during Paris Fashion Week, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Over 150 pieces designed by Mr. Mugler from 1973 to 2014 are included, as well as photographs (he has been advertising his brand for decades), perfumes (notably his bestseller, Angel), music videos ( he directed “Too Funky” by George Michael “), fembots and more.

“What Thierry Mugler did for four decades was so rich and varied – it really is the work of an artist who used fashion to express himself,” said Thierry-Maxime Loriot, curator of the exhibition and former model who created exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Jean Paul Gaultier, Viktor & Rolf and Peter Lindbergh.

“Our intention was to celebrate his work rather than take a nostalgic look back, and show the younger generation that you don’t have to follow trends to be successful in the creative industry,” said Mr. Oriole. “You can push the boundaries – and do it with humor, like Mr. Mugler.”

For years, museums have asked Mr. Mugler to do a retrospective of his work. He pushed them all away, he said, because he “doesn’t like” the simple chronological approach. Then, in 2016, the director general of the Montreal museum at the time, Nathalie Bondil, called. “She offered to revisit my work, more like a walk or an opera, with a different rhythm and vibe in each room,” Mr. Mugler said. “Something more amusing. “

“Couturissime” is all that. The exhibition, which opened in Montreal in 2019 and made popular stops in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and Munich before landing in Paris, is divided into five acts, “like a classical opera”, a Mr. Mugler said.

It has been spread across two floors of the museum’s newly renovated Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman Fashion Galleries, featuring Montreal’s original theatrical set design created by a host of specialists, including famous set designers Philipp Fürhofer and Michel Lemieux and the Emmy- nominated for visual effects company Rodeo FX.

For example, the opening rooms of the exhibition, devoted to Mr. Mugler’s late 1990s collections “Les Insectes” and “Chimère”, have video backgrounds of woodland and ocean scenes, with sounds. birds, crickets and bubbling water, all created by Rodeo FX.

The show then explores various themes that regularly resurface in Mr. Mugler’s work. Classic cars and motorcycles are reflected in fender bustiers, radiator belts, and a black rubber skirt designed to look like tires, while dystopian futurism is embodied in a suite of metal and plexiglass corsets and catsuits. , built in the mid-1990s with Jean-Pierre Delcros, specialist in aircraft bodywork, and Jean-Jacques Urcun, industrial designer.

Fashion photographs by Thierry Mugler, taken by Mr. Mugler as well as by Guy Bourdin, Jean-Paul Goude, Karl Lagerfeld, Dominique Issermann and David LaChapelle, are interspersed.

A gallery presents the work of Helmut Newton, on loan from the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin. Mr. Mugler hired Mr. Newton to photograph Thierry Mugler’s first advertising campaign, in 1976, and the two worked together for years thereafter. “Helmut’s work was exactly my vision, my twin,” Mr. Mugler said.

The last room is dedicated to the 1985 production of the Comédie-Française “Macbeth” at the Festival d’Avignon, with a hologram by M. Lemieux of a delirious Lady Macbeth and seven of M’s BDSM-meet-Renaissance Venice costumes. Mugler.

“Each stud has been specially manufactured,” Mr. Mugler said. “The three witches were in nude latex.” Unsurprisingly perhaps, “it caused a scandal”, he said with a laugh, adding: “My work was the biggest budget of the Comédie-Française since Louis XIV in Versailles.

Mr. Mugler’s journey to fashion was as unconventional and varied as his career. Born Manfred Thierry Mugler in Strasbourg, France – his name is now Manfred – he studied classical dance as a child. At the age of 14, he joined the corps de ballet of the Opéra National du Rhin while studying interior architecture at the Haute École des Arts du Rhin, both in Strasbourg.

At 18, he moved to Paris to audition for contemporary dance companies, but he quickly realized that he could make a better living as a freelance fashion designer and began working for ready-made brands. well-known French wearers such as Cacharel and Dorothée Bis. In 1973, he presented his first collection, and in 1978, opened his first boutique.

During the 1980s, Mr. Mugler became known for his exaggerated hourglass silhouettes, with linebacker shoulders, a generous neckline, and serious sequins, and in 1992 he introduced both a Couture line and Angel, a fragrance with sweet notes of vanilla and caramel, a novelty for the time.

The smell was “like candy,” Mr. Loriot said, describing how Mr. Mugler wanted those who smelled it “to bite the wearer, as if they were edible. It was a revolution. “

In 1997, Mr. Mugler sold his business to Clarins, the French beauty conglomerate. He was so busy with the ever-increasing cycle of collections, he said, that he no longer had time for parallel concerts in the theater and cinema. “Fashion was more about marketing and branding than social connection with people,” he said. “I thought it was time to put down my tools and go back to my original passion in life, which was directing.”

In 2002, he left the company. The following year, Clarins closed the fashion division to focus on the most profitable perfume sales. Clarins relaunched ready-to-wear in 2011 and has been run by American designer Casey Cadwallader since 2017. Last year, L’Oréal bought out the entire brand.

While Mr. Mugler said he was thrilled to see all the different strands of his creativity woven into one show, these are “the fashion pieces – I can’t call them fashion; these are costumes for your everyday staging and everyday staging yourself “- that made him the most excited.

“I couldn’t believe I had done all of this,” Mr. Mugler said.

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