PARIS — Thierry Mugler's fashion star is rising. Shuttered in the spring of 2003 by Groupe Clarins in the face of heavy losses and dwindling consumer interest, the house has resuscitated its women's wear line for spring.
But don't expect to see any of the high-drama spectacles associated with the brand's founding namesake designer. Instead, the capsule ready-to-wear line, dubbed Thierry Mugler Edition, will be unveiled during an intimate presentation at the brand's showroom here next week.
Growing demand, as well as a tangible Mugler revival among designers, fueled the comeback, according to Joel Palix, president of Thierry Mugler's perfume and fashion divisions, who highlighted the large number of powwow Mugler pieces worn at the "Superheroes: Fashion & Fantasy" gala at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in May.
Rosemary Rodriguez, the line's artistic director, handpicked emblematic archive pieces with Thierry Mugler himself to use as a basis for the launch collection, and developed the new pieces with the Thierry Mugler Studio. Modernizing Mugler's vision, she said, involved tweaking proportions and the introduction of comfortable, mainly natural fabrics. "The idea was to keep the [principal] Mugler [codes] but bring them to another generation; to [retain] the sharp shoulders but not to overdo it; to enhance the body but to allow for movement," said Rodriguez, who joined the house in February to oversee the men's and women's lines. Rodriguez worked closely with Mugler from 1994 to 1999.
So far, self-financed by Groupe Clarins, Palix predicts future partnerships will be key to the development of the line.
"It is not the vocation of the Groupe Clarins to rebuild it by itself," he said, adding that today fashion represents around 20 percent of the Thierry Mugler brand's revenues, with 80 percent generated by beauty.
While Thierry Mugler's greatest hits, such as Amazonian sharp-edged suits — here in black cotton with giant white polkadot appliqués — and after-dark jumpsuits have been re-visited for the new line, so, too, have less obvious Mugler legacies, such as his denim couture. "Sometimes the image we have of his work is a bit caricatured. This was an opportunity to discover other facets [of the designer]," said Rodriguez. "He was one of the first to bring glamour to denim."Dresses, including one draped chiffon bustier style structured with a cotton body, are also an essential part of the mainly black-and-white collection.
Whilst Mugler played a guiding role in the line's inspiration, the aim is to take the brand to a new place. Having parlayed his artistic vision into fields such as photography, costume design and directing, today Mugler acts as artistic director for the house's beauty and makeup lines that carry his name.
Mugler has just wrapped up shooting a movie for the new Angel perfume featuring Naomi Watts, for example, to be released in October.
"[Thierry Mugler Edition] is both a link to the past and a bridge to the future," said Palix, who likened the line, both in concept and in price point, to Balenciaga and Lanvin's respective edition lines. Patiently rebuilding the brand's heritage, including the culling and electronic archiving of some 6,000 Mugler vintage creations, now stored in provincial France, was a vital preliminary step for the brand's relaunch, he said, adding that a major Thierry Mugler retrospective is being planned for next year in an undisclosed museum. "All I'll say is that it's in an amazing museum outside of Europe that's completely in line with the Thierry Mugler aesthetic," he said.
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