Who remembers Claude Montana? I have a feeling that only two people I know will raise their hands. At any rate, if you remember Montana, you remember Mugler; you may even be excited that Thierry Mugler is releasing a new “capsule couture” collection this fall. I have to admit that in my attempt to study Mugler—beyond my unique friends who lived through, and, more importantly, in Mugler (even in Utah)—I became a little confused.
When I think of Mugler, I think of Patrick Nagel, a print artist of the ‘80s; we all remember Duran Duran’s Rio album cover. Nagel has been called “formative, yet decorative.” His woman of the ‘80s was “self-confident, a professional who was not afraid to be glamorous.” Nagel's images tended to keep the viewer at arm's length, while also engendering a desire to know a harsher, more self-assured women of the ‘80s. These images bring Mugler to my mind, excepting the fact that I enjoy Nagel in context, whereas I truly dislike Mugler as a fashion designer (although I enjoy him as a costume designer—big difference. I’ll come back to this).
Mugler started in 1974 with his ready-to-wear line for women and 1978 for men. He did not do Haute Couture until 1992. To me, this means a lack of talent (no offense). Given, he has been successful with fragrance. Most predominantly with “Angel” (also launched in 1992), which outsold “Chanel No. 5.” I don’t have a strong opinion about the fragrance. I have been unadventurous, as I’ve been faithful to my scent (a mixture—and a secret) for over 10 years now.
I will give Mugler credit for his success in fragrance (still distributed under Clarins), but I really despise his clothing, possibly on a personal taste level. To me, Mugler is the epitome of all that makes me want to vomit about the ‘80s (even the ‘90s; can you say MC Hammer dreamed of Mugler?). Sadly (maybe), Mugler barely survived the ‘90s in clothing design. His final couture show was in 2000.
At any rate, Mugler really made his mark in the ‘80s with extreme proportions, harsh, bold and solid colors: think wasp-like waists, large shoulders (hello ‘80s), strict lines and silhouettes, and "futurism." I apologize if ridiculously tight vinyl, over-the-top shoulder pads, clothing made specifically for the “body-conscious”, the baroque (a.k.a. gaudy) doesn’t appeal to my fashion pallet; I like classics and I find Mugler anything but.
As far as futurism—or postmodernism—is concerned, it seems that Mugler has set an example as of late. Given, until his coming opening this fall, he has limited himself to costume design: most notably and appropriately, George Michael’s “Too Funky” video, or Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity.” However, his influence has reared its head most prominently with the current Balenciaga and the Dolce & Gabanna collections. Even Burberry and Calvin Klein seem to have pieces under the Mugler influence.
In my opinion, Mugler has always been a costume designer. To his futurism, I say “whatevs.” I have, and always will, prefer Gaultier’s vision of the future: the simplicity, elegance, sexiness, and hardness of The Fifth Element and, especially, City of Lost Children.
Essentially, Mugler epitomizes what I hate about the ‘80s. I hope his comeback is small, if anything. I, for one, certainly have not missed him or his influence—note to Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabanna, etc. (Lindsay Larkin)