The fashion industry lost another of its most influential figures yesterday, with the death of the 73-year-old designer and couturier Manfred Thierry Mugler, best remembered for the powerful-shouldered, cinch-waisted silhouettes that dominated fashion in the 1980s. The news was confirmed on the designer’s official Instagram account, which captioned a black and white image of Mugler: “It is with deep sadness that the House of Mugler announces the passing of Mr Manfred Thierry Mugler. A visionary whose imagination as a couturier, perfumer and image-maker empowered people around the world to be bolder and dream bigger every day.”
Mugler’s work was built on the foundations of strength and display. His dramatic, pioneering designs were predominantly influenced by 1940s and 1950s glamour and the silhouettes of that era, with exaggerated shoulders and hips, constricted waists, and sculptural, futuristic bodices making his work instantly recognisable. From David Bowie to Diana Ross, many of the most famous and trend-setting figures were known to wear Mugler’s designs.
Muger was born in Strasbourg in 1948 and studied at the School of Fine Arts, where he danced with the opera. In 1966, he moved to Paris, where he worked for several designers and as a photographer. He debuted his work in 1973 and launched his own label the following year, rapidly becoming noted for the forcefulness of his cuts and vision.
His striking collections were at the forefront of the structured, decadent style that became known as ‘power dressing.’ Though he stepped away from fashion in 2002, he remained a towering presence in the industry, and his early designs have been found by a new generation of power women. Beyoncé commissioned tour costumes after witnessing Mugler’s work at the Costume Institute’s “Superheroes” show in 2008. Cardi B. and Kim Kardashian, among others, have also more recently sought out his show-stopping ensembles. For the 2019 Costume Institute Gala, the latter commissioned a bespoke “wet look” dress by Mugler. It took an astonishing eight months to create.
In 2019, supermodel Jerry Hall remarked that the designer “was timeless and ahead of his time.” She told the New York Times, “He knew all about gender fluidity, and his clothes reflected the heat and sexuality of the late ’70s and early ’80s.” For Mugler, the LGBTQ community was a constant source of skill and inspiration. Mugler began casting trans models in his runway shows in the 1980s, and he regularly collaborated on and off the catwalk with drag artists and club kids, including corsetmaker Mr Pearl.
By the late 1990s, the Mugler name became associated with fragrance even more than fashion, due to his blockbuster perfume Angel. Clarins acquired the rights to his name in 1997, and his fragrance and its offshoots have remained popular bestsellers.
The fashion industry and the rest of the world pay tribute to the iconic designer’s legacy and work.
Burberry‘s creative director, Riccardo Tisci posted an Instagram with the caption: ‘Lately I’ve been losing too many people that were close to me. Thierry you are definitely one of them. You started as a hero, my deepest inspiration, and the one that showed the world how to be inclusive in every sense throughout your art and genius. Then the most incredible thing happened…we crossed paths and became friends, it was such an honour to know you, to love you and be loved by you genuinely. You will be very missed but fly high new angel and be surrounded by the same joy you were spreading on earth. BYE BYE ANGEL’.
Musician, Diana Ross tweeted: ‘I will miss you Thierry Mugler this was a wonderful time in our lives’, accompanied by a picture of herself with the designer.
Coco Rocha posted an Instagram with part of the caption reading: ‘Unbelievable that just 4 days after losing Andre Leon Talley, today we lost another titan of the fashion industry with the passing of Manfred Thierry Mugler in Paris.’
His loss will be deeply felt.