The brand is looking to recruit a single, full-time creative director to oversee both its fragrance and fashion divisions, Joël Palix, president of Clarins Fragrance Group and director general of Thierry Mugler SAS, told WWD.
“We thought it was time to reorganize and to look for an artistic director for the brand — for the total brand — somebody who will be directly involved in all the fashion creations and who will nourish the inspiration for the fragrance,” he said in an interview at Thierry Mugler headquarters in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine.
Thierry Mugler, who founded the label and has been artistic director of Thierry Mugler Parfums since 1992, has become a creative adviser to Palix. The designer — who goes by the name “Manfred” these days — will also focus on other projects, spending a large amount of time as a writer and director of theatrical shows. One is scheduled for the end of 2013 in Paris, and another is slated for next fall in Berlin.
“He represents the heritage of the brand and has done so much for us that we think he can still help us on some strategic choices,” said Palix.
Sébastien Peigné and Romain Kremer, Thierry Mugler head designers for women’s and men’s wear, respectively, have left the house. Palix said they “did interesting work in reinterpreting the codes and style of Mr. Mugler’s heritage.”
“We are already talking to some candidates from the industry and people with a bit of an out-of-the-box profile,” continued Palix. “We’re going to take our time.”
He said the brand needs someone who can subtly balance heritage and modernity, understands luxury and has imagination, vision plus a sense of staging. Palix explained he and other top-level executives at family-owned Groupe Clarins — which owns Mugler — believe the label is at a turning point.
“We have had a huge increase in our perfume business; over the last three years, the brand grew by 50 percent,” he continued, adding it was driven by sales of Mugler’s top-ranked scents Angel and Alien. “At the same time, we have done what I would call a promising comeback in fashion. So we think now is the time to develop a strategy to build a global luxury brand that can be successful in fragrances, in accessories and in ready-to-wear with connections between all segments.”
During this interim period, the Thierry Mugler studio will continue to develop the brand’s fashion, although the label will not show during the men’s wear collections in Paris this June. Mugler’s fragrance activity is to continue on as before.
Palix said this transition phase is to be used to give “thought to what should be a Mugler for today, in terms of values, portfolio of products and road map to build [a] global brand.”
For instance, Mugler’s two logos are being considered.
“What should we do in the future? These are very important questions that we need to address now,” said Palix. “There was a bit of disconnect between fragrance, which was born 20 years ago [and] fashion that was born in the Seventies, stopped in the mid-2000s and relaunched with Nicola Formichetti. The pieces of the puzzle must start to be brought together.”
Palix noted Mugler isn’t alone in merging its fashion and fragrance, that there’s a trend among luxury companies blending the two. Think Burberry recently taking control of its beauty activity, and Puig ultimately owning the entire Jean Paul Gaultier brand, for instance.
The first priority for Mugler’s new creative director will be fashion.
“This is where we need to show we can bring successful collections that are not only visible in the press — which is something that we have done successfully — but also commercially viable,” said Palix.
Second on the agenda will be accessories.
“Our first line of bags has been well received, so there is high potential there,” said Palix.
He doesn’t see a total about-face on Mugler fashion’s social-media strategy, which was key under Formichetti. Palix said the label’s fragrance business is already significantly involved in relational marketing.
“We have a tribe of followers and addicts that love our fragrances, so I don’t think social media will suddenly disappear from our communication strategy,” he said. “But I think on the fashion side, we will clearly [put] a stronger focus on the product.”
Ultimately, Palix would like Mugler’s fashion business to grow faster than its fragrance activity.
While he would not discuss numbers, industry sources estimate the label overall generates $800 million in retail sales annually, with 90 percent to 95 percent stemming from fragrance and the rest split between rtw and accessories. The sources believe that in the long-term, the breakdown could be 80 percent for fragrance and 10 percent each for fashion and accessories.
Geographically speaking, Mugler scents are popular everywhere except Asia and remain a small activity in Russia.
“I clearly think our fashion can help us [there],” said Palix. “It has been successful in Asia, in Russia and in the U.S., and clearly it’s a way to start communicating on the Mugler name and help the fragrance business.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
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Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast