Thierry Mugler and Paris share a relationship that spans over five decades, exemplified an extraordinary retrospective exhibition at The Musée des Arts Décoratifs, which was an unmissable destination. The works of this great artist, designer, photographer, costume designer, and multidisciplinary icon are displayed across two floors, divided into several levels.
The exhibition artfully combines costumes, animated projections, photographs, and music. As visitors transition from one room to another, their emotions alternate. They journey from the world of fauna and oceans, surrounded the sounds of nature and classical music, and slowly immerse themselves in the realm of pop icons and glamour, featuring George Michael’s “Too Funky” video directed Mugler in 1991.
The exhibition commences with creations inspired the eccentric deep-sea world and progresses to the realm of insects, showcasing his “Les Chimères” collection from 1997, which draws from the glamorous world of nymphs and jellyfish. It continues with depictions of a fantastical world inspired the works of Jules Verne.
Futurism has long been a source of inspiration for Mugler. The exhibition also features his “Maschinenmensch” (Human Machine) collection from 1995, creating an atmosphere enriched the soundtrack of labored breathing under a gas mask (quite prescient for 2020).
The black and white decor provides an ideal backdrop for showcasing Mugler’s latex and vinyl creations, laden with eroticism and fetishism. His 1970s “Glamazon” collection portrays an urban woman whose style stands in stark contrast to the hippie movement and fashion of that era.
Every phase of the exhibition is significant, making it impossible to single out a career highlight, as everything Mugler undertook was superb. An intriguing anecdote involves his fashion campaign, for which he enlisted Helmut Newton, a long-time collaborator and friend. Mugler became deeply involved in the process, offering numerous suggestions. At one point, Newton challenged Mugler to take the camera and shoot the campaign himself, a challenge Mugler gladly accepted. This marked him as one of the pioneering designers to successfully photograph his own campaigns, capturing his muses, the Glamazons, in exotic locations such as the Sahara, Greenland, and the roof of the Paris Opera House.
The grand finale of this exhibition showcases the costumes from the play “Macbeth” for the Comédie-Française. This production featured the most expensive costume design in the institution’s history. Visitors can witness parts of the play through a 4D projection, which quickly immerses them in the tragic world of Shakespeare, even though it only features segments of Lady Macbeth’s dance in primary cotton coverings.
The costume changes on the dolls include a few original costumes from the play, performed 59 times, including Lady Macbeth’s large sculptural crinoline. The designer aimed to convey the feeling of captivity through the costume. It’s truly remarkable how Mugler brought his art and passions to life across various fields, establishing himself as a true Renaissance artist of our time.
*This text was originally written for FBL magazine: