French designer Manfred Thierry Mugler, known for the powerful-shouldered, cinch-waisted silhouettes that reigned over fashion in the 1980s, died on Sunday at the age of 73 of “natural causes”, according to his agent.
A former ballet dancer, Mugler’s bold collections – presented at highly stylised, themed runway shows – were at the forefront of the structured, decadent style that came to be known as “power dressing”.
“He was timeless and ahead of his time,” supermodel Jerry Hall – the face of his best-selling Angel perfume – said of the designer in 2019. “He knew all about gender fluidity and his clothes reflected the heat and sexuality of the late ’70s and early ’80s,” she told the New York Times.
Though Mugler retired from the label that bore his name in 2002, he did not give up on making clothes. He was responsible for Beyonce’s science-fiction inflected Sasha Fierce looks in the late 2000s. He also created costumes for Lady Gaga and Cardi B. In 2019, he created Kim Kardashian’s Met Gala look, a latex dress dripping in crystals.
“We are devastated to announce the passing of Mr Manfred Thierry Mugler on Sunday January 23rd 2022,” said a post on the designer’s official Facebook account.
Born in Strasbourg in December 1948, he arrived in Paris aged 20 and created his own label “Cafe de Paris” in 1973, a year before founding Thierry Mugler.
The LGBTQ community was a frequent source of talent and inspiration for the designer. Mugler cast trans models in his runway shows as early as the 1980s, and frequently collaborated with drag artists and club kids on and off the runway, including corsetmaker Mr Pearl.
By the late 1990s, the Mugler name was associated more with fragrance than fashion, thanks to his blockbuster perfume Angel. The rights to his name were acquired by cosmetics giant Clarins in 1997, and that fragrance and its offshoots, remain best-sellers.
In 2002, the fashion division of Mugler shut down, but the brand was revived in 2010 under the creative direction of stylist Nicola Formichetti, and later Casey Cadwallader.
Mugler’s use of corsetry, and his exaggerated approach to the female body has drawn criticism, but the designer was no less extreme with his own physique. In 2019, the normally reclusive designer posed for a nude photoshoot with Interview Magazine, and discussed his exhaustive body building routine and cosmetic surgeries. “I think it’s important for people to be a complete realisation of themselves. I have always been fascinated by the human body, and I wanted to pay homage to what it can do,” he said.
In 2019, the designer was the subject of a major retrospective exhibition, Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, which debuted in Montreal, before touring to Paris in 2021.
The designer had been due to announce new collaborations early this week, his agent Jean-Baptiste Rougeot told AFP.