Thierry Mugler: Couture time in the Kunsthal

Edition 31 October 2019

This fall, the Kunsthal Rotterdam is presenting the European premiere of the fashion exhibition “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime”. Initiated and produced by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in collaboration with Clarins Group and Maison Mugler, and compiled by well-known Canadian curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot, this large-scale retrospective shows more than 150 creations by the famous French designer. Innovative, rebellious and creative without borders: Thierry Mugler has been surprising the world with his extraordinary creations for almost fifty years. In a sparkling multimedia exhibition design, the general public is introduced to the extensive oeuvre of this versatile artist.

Thierry Mugler: a visionary in a revolutionary Paris

Manfred Thierry Mugler is born in 1948 in Strasbourg, France. At a young age he joins the ballet of the Opéra National du Rhin as a dancer, with which he travels through Europe. He immerses himself in the magic of the stage for six years and is introduced into the wonderful world of costumes, lighting and imagination. This experience will stay with him for the rest of his life and will prove to be his greatest source of inspiration.

From theatre to fashion

His greatest love is and remains the stage, but gradually the talented Mugler comes to the conclusion that his vision and qualities reach further. He decides to study at the École Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs and takes the first steps in making clothing. He gradually develops his own style. Strasbourg turns out to be too small and in 1969 he exchanges the sleepy provincial town for fashionable Paris. This appears to be the ideal location for his development as a designer. Paris is under the spell of the student protests and everyone is looking for innovative thinkers and creative people. Conservatism and traditionalism give way to a progressive society in which individualism and freer social and sexual norms prevail. An ideal breeding ground for the visionary and free spirit of Mugler. In just five years he develops into a celebrated designer.

The democratization of beauty

In his work, Mugler is driven by a continuous search for innovation and beauty, which translates into all facets of his work. In the early 1970s, for example, he is the first to abandon the then dominant hippie look and experiment with the tailored, broad-shouldered fashion that would become synonymous with the 1980s. The powerful silhouettes designed by Mugler, executed in bold and often unused materials, are strongly influenced by his theatrical background. Just like on stage, Mugler’s creations aim to transform the wearer into a fantasy creature that is better, stronger, more beautiful and more sensual than the original. Fashion is his means of beautifying, perfecting and transporting people to a world where beauty and self-assurance are essential. In his eyes, beauty is not only reserved for the happy few, but is universal and must be accessible to everyone. This endeavour translates into various collaborations with pop stars, photographers, theatre companies, choreographers and marginalized groups such as drag queens and transgender people. Mugler directs, designs and photographs with the ultimate goal of democratizing beauty. The apotheosis of this takes place in the mid-eighties, when Mugler literally opens the doors of a previously closed bastion. In 1984 he organizes the first real fashion show in history at the Zenith in Paris. More than 6,000 visitors enjoy a dazzling fashion spectacle, in which models, dancers and singers walk shoulder to shoulder with pop artists, celebrities such as Jerry Hall and even porn stars. Nothing is too crazy in Mugler’s world and everything has a unique beauty. He causes revolution after revolution in the global fashion world. His influence is far-reaching and visible to this day.

Versatile talent

However, Mugler is more than a fashion designer. He has an unprecedented talent for imagination and knows how to translate this into a wide range of activities. As a photographer and filmmaker, Mugler directs the iconic video clip “Too Funky” by George Michael in 1990 and a number of short films with Isabelle Huppert and Juliette Binoche in the lead role. He designs the costumes for a performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth by the Comédie Française and the Festival d’Avignon and for the Zumanity show of Cirque du Soleil. He also creates and organizes his own revues, such as the Mugler Follies in Paris and De Wyld in Friedrichstadt-Palast in Berlin. He also dresses a whole range of stars, such as Diana Ross, David Bowie, Lady Gaga, Liza Minnelli and Céline Dion. He also designs costumes for the tours and videos of Mylène Farmer and Beyoncé. The exhibition “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime” celebrates this unprecedented talent and takes the visitor into his world full of fantasy and beauty.

Thierry Mugler: Couturissime
13 October 2019 to 8 March 2020
Kunsthal Rotterdam