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Even in his death, Thierry Mugler reminds us why his designs will always be the moment

French fashion designer Thierry Mugler speaks during the presentation of his exhibition "Couturissime" at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, on February 26, 2019. Picture: Martin Quellet-Diotte/AFP

French fashion designer Thierry Mugler speaks during the presentation of his exhibition "Couturissime" at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, on February 26, 2019. Picture: Martin Quellet-Diotte/AFP

Published Jan 29, 2022

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I still remember the first time I came across the name 'Mugler'.

I was paging through a Vogue at the public libraryin my hometown of Richards Bay.

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It was my world.

A place where I could hide between the shelves and be transported to another universe, one filled with words that took me on different adventures.

From time to time I would find old magazine, stashed away, possibly for archiving. It was here that I was introduced to the world of fashion- the art and and the reporting.

The cover was frayed, so I didn't know who it was on the cover, but it was an early 2000s edition and on the many page adverts before you got to the contents page, was the advert for Thierry Mugler's Angel perfume.

There was Jerry Hall, sprawled over white sand dunes in the desert, wearing a silver evening gown, her hair perfectly coiffed, reaching for a bottle of Angel.

That ad transfixed me and I started being fascinated by the world of fashion, models, designers and publications.

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Jerry Hall at White Sands, New Mexico, for ‘Angel’ Campaign in Mugler’s Pearly Mermaid Couture, 1995. Picture: Manfred Thierry Mugler

So when the news of Mugler’s passing broke on Monday morning, I immediately went back to 14 year old me, in full school uniform discovering this fabled world of fashion advertising.

When I finally arrived in university four years later, and armed with internet access, I did as much Googling of Mugler as possible.

The erstwhile Style.com took me down a rabbit hole of Mugler shows, while YouTube allowed me to experience the designer's glory days as the toast of the fashion industry in the 90s, were all the top models scrambled to be on his shows.

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Like his compatriot, Jean Paul Gaultier, Mugler knew how to put on a show. His shows were filled with bold and risqué designs.

He threw away the rule book and made his own, which he frequently broke. From Joan of Arc inspired armour, to the iconic Birth of Venus inspired garment from 1995, he marched to the beat of his own drum.

But more than anything, Mugler was an image architect.

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The stars knew that when they wanted to make an impact, they went to him.

His designs were simply unforgettable, such that everyone knew who you were wearing the minute you stepped onto the red carpet.

Beyoncé had Manfred Thierry Mugler create her garments for her ’I am... Sasha Fierce’ era in 2009, where she only wore garments designed by Mugler on stage. Picture: Supplied

His everlasting impact was felt when Beyoncé had him create her garments for her "I am... Sasha Fierce" era in 2009, where she only wore garments designed by Mugler on stage, music videos and on some press events for the album and subsequent tour.

Their collaboration came after Mugler's designs were feature in the 2008 Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute exhibition titled "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy".

The motorcycle bustier Beyoncé wears in the tour's promotional pictures, was made by the designer in 1992 and also featured on the exhibition at the Met.

Their collaboration resulted in 71 costumes created for the show.

With the fashion world preaching about the need for sustainability in the choices made by celebrities on the red carpet, many stylists started looking into the archives and vintage garments of fabled fashion brands.

Cardi B performs “Money” at the 61st annual Grammy Awards. Picture: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Cardi B took it a step further by managing to get the House of Mugler to lend her the Birth of Venus gown, which she wore to the 2019 Grammy Awards.

The gown is originally from the 1995 A/W Haute Couture show.

For her performance she wore a rhinestone-embellished bodysuit from 1994 AW and then accepted her Grammy in a white crepe shawl dress with white fringe from the Spring 1997 collection.

It was a feat that confirmed her status as a new fashion star.

Hence no one was surprised when she late last year she wore an avant garde, figure-hugging couture look festooned with feathers from the haute couture autumn/winter 1995 collection, to the Thierry Mugler, “Couturissime”, a retrospective of the designer’s work hosted at the Musee Des Arts Decoratifs in Paris.

Cardi B and Kim Kardashian are one of the few celebrities to have had access to the designer's archival looks.

At the 2019 Met Gala, Ms Kardashian stopped everyone in their tracks when she managed to get Mugler out of retirement to design her garment for the day. It was the first creation from the designer for the House of Mugler in 20 years.

The now iconic look was a latex corseted dress with beaded crystals hung off her as if they were drops of water.

She told US Vogue: "This is about eight months in the making. He envisioned me this California girl stepping out of the ocean, wet, dripping.”

Earlier that year she had surprised many by wearing a black cut-out gown from designer's Spring/Summer 1998 collection to 5th Annual Hollywood Beauty Awards.

At 73, Mugler had lived a full life. One that was filled with adventures and a contribution to fashion history that will inspire generations to come.

As Daniel Roseberry presented his latest couture collection for Schiaparelli in Paris on Monday, I couldn't help but think how much Mugler had inspired his designs. And I know he will inspire many more for decades to come.

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