The first major exhibition of fashion by French designer Thierry Mugler, presented at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, examines his visions for “metamorphoses, superheroines and cyborgs”.
Made between 1977 and 2014, the pieces demonstrate the creative prowess of the house of Thierry Mugler, which is credited with revolutionising the fashion industry, and particularly haute couture, with its theatrical designs.
The exhibition marks the first comprehensive retrospective of his work, bringing together garments, accessories and costumes alongside photography, video and archival sketches.
“People have offered to exhibit my work a number of times, but the idea of simply looking back has never interested me,” Thierry Mugler, who now goes by Manfred, said in a statement. “There is no future without a past, so I hope that this exhibition will inspire in its visitors a new creative future.”
Mugler is known for his structural garments, and innovative use of unusual materials like glass, chrome car parts and LEDs lights.
His outfits often feature exaggerated and powerful – yet feminine – silhouettes, and are celebrated for their imagination and transformative qualities.
“Metamorphoses, superheroines and cyborgs inhabit the work of this designer who perceived early on, and with considerable humour, the coming transhumanist revolutions,” said MMFA director general and chief curator Nathalie Bondil.
“His sleek, elegant creatures, his dangerous seductresses, populate a world of glamour at the edges of reality.”
The Parisian house of Thierry Mugler was set up by its namesake in 1973. Its rise coincided with the supermodel era, and figures like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista were all photographed in Mugler designs.
However, parent company Clarins – which bought the brand in 1997 – closed it down in 2003 following significant losses.
After a reboot, Italian-Japanese designer Nicola Formichetti served as the brand’s creative director from 2010 to 2013, before British designer David Koma took the helm.
In the run-up to the MMFA exhibition, vintage Mugler designs have reappeared on several celebrities, including Cardi B – who wore a piece from his 1995-96 couture collection to the 2019 Grammy Awards – and Kim Kardashian at various recent events.
But his garments have continually cropped up in popular culture for many years: Demi Moore’s black dress in 1993 movie Indecent Proposal; costumes for Beyoncé’s 2009 I Am… World Tour; Lady Gaga’s black-and-white ensemble in the 2010 music video for Telephone.
Mugler also directed and designed the costumes for George Michael’s Too Funky music video in 1992, and worked on outfits for David Bowie.
On the catwalk, his dramatic clothes appeared in stark contrast to those of his minimalist peers, like Calvin Klein and Helmut Lang.
“Thierry Mugler not only left his mark on his era, he revolutionised fashion with his creations in sculptural forms that are both futuristic and elegant,” exhibition curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot. “He staged the most spectacular fashion shows and breathed new life into haute couture, notably through the use of new materials such as metal, latex and faux fur.”
“His distinctive style transcended trends, and continues to influence a new generation of couturiers,” he added.
Mugler collaborated with the museum team on the showcase, which is divided into six “acts”.
One gallery will be dedicated to Mugler’s collaboration with photographer Helmut Newton, which resulted in imagery that amplifies the clothing’s otherworldly appearance. Photos by Karl Lagerfeld, Jean-Paul Goude, Guy Bourdin, David LaChapelle and many more will also be on show across the exhibition.
The Futuristic and Fembot Couture section will feature a layout created by German designer Philipp Fürhofer, while the Metamorphosis gallery will incorporate visual imagery and special effects by studio Rodeo FX.
Five crystal chandeliers by Dutch designer Tord Boontje will hang above the Belle de jour and Belle de nuit area.
Thierry Mugler: Couturissime will run until 8 September 2019, before embarking on an international tour that will include tenures at the Kunsthal Rotterdam (12 October 2019 – 8 March 2020) and at the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung in Munich (3 April – 30 August 2020).
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