Born and educated at the School of Fine Arts in Strasbourg, Alsace, Thierry Mugler performed as a ballet dancer with the Opéra de Rhin during the 1965–1966 season, before moving to Paris to begin a dual career as a photographer and an assistant designer in a number of European fashion houses.
In 1973, Mugler founded his first label, called Café de Paris, and the following year created his eponymous brand and opened its first store. From the outset, Mugler’s style was highly identifiable for its drama, exaggerated proportions, references to science fiction and fetishism, and industrial styling. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Mugler enjoyed enormous global success among women attracted to the image of powerful femininity created by his suggestive, body-conscious garments.
His extravagant runway shows contributed to the very high profile Mugler enjoyed throughout those decades, though the theatricality of the clothes themselves was integral to his larger-than-life image. Among his most notorious styles were dominatrix-inspired boots, brightly colored suits with extra-wide shoulders, and a metal bustier sculpted to resemble a motorcycle.
A menswear line, Thierry Mugler Hommes, was introduced in 1979 under designer Marc Roland (succeeded by Jean-Luc Testu in 1993 and Thomas Engel Hart in 2005), and the brand began developing fragrances under a new arm of the company in 1990. Mugler showed his first couture collection in Paris in 1992, in addition to releasing the perfume Angel, which quickly became a global bestseller.
Mugler himself retired from designing clothing in 1999 in order to concentrate on perfume and private commissions for theatrical stage costumes for performers including Madonna and Beyoncé. From 2002 to 2008, production on both couture and ready-to-wear was suspended as the brand focused on fragrance, its most lucrative product line.
In 2008, the House of Thierry Mugler announced a 35-piece, limited-edition collection sourced from its archive, intending to capitalize on renewed contemporary interest in Mugler’s signature styles from the 1980s. His pieces featured prominently in that year’s “Superheroes” exhibit at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The collection, “Thierry Mugler Edition,” was designed by then-artistic director Rosemary Rodriguez, a former assistant to Mugler in the 1990s.
In September 2010, the brand appointed Nicola Formichetti, a Japanese-Italian designer, former magazine editor, and celebrity stylist, as creative director of both the women’s and men’s ready-to-wear collections. His first runway presentations were shown in the fall 2011 season. In April 2013, Formichetti announced his departure from the brand for the Italian label Diesel. Thierry Mugler subsequently declared his return to the company in the hope of integrating the clothing and perfume divisions into one global brand.
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