As the crowd of fashion journalists and industry insiders gather for the opening of Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, a retrospective on the great works of Manfred Thierry Mugler at the Brooklyn Museum, it’s apparent that something is missing. “For me, it is quite emotional because it’s the first venue where Monsieur Mugler is not giving his seal of approval,” opens the exhibition curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot. Indeed, Mugler was not only a creative vision but hands-on with everything he approached, and in this vast display of his works, the titan himself was gone.
Mugler, who died earlier this year, was a fashion, film, and photographic mastermind, innovating and curating his works to empower women and personify the strengths he saw in them. Some might recall Cardi B walking in the 1995 Venus dress at the 2019 Grammys, or Madonna’s Life Magazine cover in December of 1986 — or perhaps most recently, Kylie Jenner at the 2022 CFDA awards, where she wore a vintage piece from 1999.
Above all, highlighted throughout the museum, his various works later used by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, frozen in time but still alive and vibrating with the musical energy these greats imbued.
The relationship between Gaga and Mugler solidified in 2011 when her then-stylist Nicola Formichetti took the helm of the house as Creative Director. The brand had already made a name for itself under Thierry, offering an avant-garde and futuristic approach to fashion, drenched in collaborations with musicians like David Bowie and Diana Ross. Now, with the help of Formichetti, Gaga had become its new muse.
At the Gymnase Japy in Paris, Gaga walked the runway to Formichetti’s first collection the only way she knew how, with theatricality and unparalleled grace. “Gaga had better balance on her platform wedges than many of the professional models did on their own precarious heels,” wrote Nicole Phelps in her review of the show. All of this was done to the beat of “Government Hooker,” which would officially release months later. Although she had been a close collaborator in years prior, often seen in archival pieces from Thierry’s late 80s and early 90s collections, this was the first time Gaga was directly involved with the brand.
While Formichetti’s role lasted only a few years, Gaga and Mugler were entwined, going on to forge many projects in the years to come — perhaps her most infamous being ‘Telephone’ where she debuted a vintage black & white set during the videos cutscene, or ‘Paparazzi’ where she was seen in a diamond-encrusted corset during the video opening and Metropolis robot suit later on.
Beyoncé’s relationship with Mugler started around the same time, but while Gaga’s relationship was progressive, here it was explosive. Thierry served as the creative advisor for her world tour of “I Am… Sasha Fierce,” overseeing everything from lighting to sets, in addition to the costumes for the entire tour. The looks embodied the “dramatization and metamorphosis” of Bey’s third studio album, where she splits the melody and tones in two, the rushed and edgier side partly defined by her alter ego. “She is Fierce on stage and Beyoncé in real life. I tried to understand these two sides with my own perception of both aspects,” Thierry notes to Women’s Wear Daily.
“I’m so excited to bring Couturissime to Brooklyn,” notes Cadwallader, current Creative Director of Mugler. “The exhibition is a vibrant journey through Manfred Thierry Mugler’s vision and legacy. A true creative running in his own lane, everything he touched, from silhouettes and craft to casting and fragrance, was different. He was always true to himself, because it was the only way he knew how to be.”
The exhibit will continue to display from November 18 to May 7, a true encapsulation of music and fashion history.