Born in Strasbourg, France in 1948, Thierry Mugler was the son of a doctor. He began making clothes when he was a teenager. Before moving to London in 1968, Mugler was a member of the ballet company Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg, studied photography at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, dressed windows for the boutique Gudule in Paris, and freelanced for designers in Paris and Milan. In 1970 Mugler moved to Amsterdam and then settled back in Paris, where his first collection debuted in 1971 under the label Café de Paris. Azzedine Alaïa joined as a designer and helped to shape Mugler’s vision until the late 1970s. Mugler showed his first collection under his own name in 1973. In the 1970s he made a name for himself with structured separates, suits, and dresses that emphasized a body-conscious, triangular silhouette with strong shoulders, fueling the era’s trend of “power dressing” for women. His collections included punk, military, and streetwear influences with fetishistic overtones. In 1979 he launched a line for men.
In 1982 Mugler showed his “Wedge Dress” with exaggerated shoulder pads, and in 1994 he introduced his Scratched line, with uneven hems and necklines. He exaggerated the female body with cutouts, spiked breasts, angular shoulders, and corsets, all often in industrial or techno fabrics. The fashion press dubbed him “the prophet of futurism.” Known for his flair for theatricality, in 1984 he staged a supershow at the Zenith nightclub in Paris to celebrate his ten-year anniversary; the event was attended by more than 6,000 people. By 1990 his business had peaked, with sales of $90 million. In 1992, Mugler presented an haute couture collection featuring a corset in each of the sixty looks. His vision for women was bold and creative but sometimes controversial, as he depicted women as vampires, aliens, superheroes, homicidal secretaries, and more. Mugler’s strong point of view attracted celebrity clients and the designer dressed everyone from Madonna to Danielle Mitterand, the wife of the former French president.
In 1992, in partnership with Groupe Clarins, he launched the fragrance Angel, which has become one of the top ten best-selling fragrances of all time. Its advertising projects a mix of romanticism and fantasy that is fitting for the fashion label. In the late 1990s his fashion business declined and in 2000 Mugler presented his last haute couture show. In 2009 Mugler was an adviser and costume designer for Beyoncé’s world tour. In 2010 the Thierry Mugler company was renamed Mugler and Nicola Formichetti became creative director. In 2013, Formichetti left the label and was replaced by David Koma, and Thierry Mugler became creative adviser to Joel Palix, president of Clarins Fragrance Group and director general of Thierry Mugler Parfums SAS.