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Beauty Executives Pay Tribute to Manfred Thierry Mugler

Industry players remembered a visionary creator.

PARIS — Beauty industry executives described Manfred Thierry Mugler as a visionary, who introduced a new fragrance category with Angel and in years following created a best-selling constellation of perfumes. The designer died late Sunday at the age of 73.

Launched in 1992, the iconic and esoteric perfume Angel was Group Clarins’ first fragrance, and was considered a groundbreaking achievement in the industry for its innovative “edible” accords, including a chocolate note, and the coherence of its advertising, packaging and merchandising with the designer’s image.

Bucking convention, no market testing was done on the fragrance prior to launch. It came in a bottle shaped like a star that lay on its side. Nothing like it had been seen before. After two years of slow but steady sales growth, Angel started becoming a classic.

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By the late ‘90s, Angel topped Chanel No.5 in the prestige rankings in France, and achieved leading positions in many countries for decades following its introduction. Last year, it ranked fifth in France and 12th in Europe among women’s fragrances.

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Vera Strubi, who launched Angel and retired at the end of 2006 as president of Thierry Mugler Parfums Worldwide, convinced Mugler that he should base his perfume on themes present in his fashion shows.

Thierry Mugler Angel
Thierry Mugler Angel Courtesy Photo

“The theme of Angels was the highlight of his show in 1984 open to the public at the Zenith,” she said. “Another theme which appeared throughout all his universe was the star — on buttons of his clothes, present in a lot of accessories — therefore, the perfume bottle in the form of a star. Both symbols universal and emotional!”

Strubi said: “Thierry Mugler not only inspired our perfume team, he was and will remain an icon of the fashion industry. I’m very sad about his death. A genius has left us and leaves us humble humans without his creativity, his energy and endless surprises.”

Thirteen years after catapulting Angel into the fragrance stratosphere, in 2005, Thierry Mugler launched a scent with otherworldly positioning: Alien. Its bottle was fashioned to resemble a faceted amethyst.

Today, Alien remains a blockbuster, placing as the 10th best-selling women’s fragrance in Europe in 2021. Overall, Mugler fragrances, which also include the Aura, Womanity and Innocent franchises, ranked sixth in Europe and 15th worldwide last year.

L’Oréal, which acquired the Mugler brands from Groupe Clarins in March 2020, called Thierry Mugler “a true visionary without whom the fashion and beauty world would not have been the same.”

“Manfred Thierry Mugler was always ahead of his time, and his creations have inspired a whole generation of new designers,” Nicolas Hieronimus, chief executive officer of L’Oréal, said in a statement.

“An unwavering and committed pioneer of diversity, inclusion and gender equality, his designs explored new territory, calling each of us to freely define our own identity and proudly become the person we want to be,” he said.

Mugler played a part in Virginie Courtin-Clarins’ formative years. The Groupe Clarins deputy CEO, a granddaughter of the company’s founder, knew him from around the age of eight. “It’s like we’re losing a member of the family. He contributed to building the Groupe Clarins. The history of the family wouldn’t have been the same without him,” she said.

Courtin-Clarins said the Mugler fragrances pushed boundaries in beauty, and she recalled the designer was not one to compromise. “He was always wanting to break the codes, and he had no limits in his head…[about] what beauty and fashion should be,” she added.

“Mr. Mugler would always say ‘everything is possible’ and ‘my limit is no limit,’” said Sandrine Groslier, global president of Mugler Fashion & Fragrance at L’Oréal, who worked alongside Mugler for 27 years. “For me, this sentence is the best way to sum up how he was living his life — as an extravagance, full of creativity and dreams.”

She called him sensitive, a visionary and very demanding. “That’s why he succeeded so well — he was able to create that sense of urgency,” said Groslier. “It was so inspiring for everyone. He was really a role model for all the team.”

She recalled that women, and how they considered his creations, were always paramount for Mugler, who gleaned inspiration from everything from architecture to design and photography.

“He wanted to make people participate in an adventure,” said Groslier. “What he wanted was to create emotion in people, to be connected with them.”

And he succeeded — on so many levels. At the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, where the “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime” retrospective is on, hundreds of people have been lining up to pay him tribute, she said.

Beauty Executives Remember Manfred Thierry Mugler
Thierry Mugler’s Alien. WWD Staff

Joël Palix, who also formerly led Thierry Mugler’s fragrance and fashion business at Clarins, and now runs his boutique consultancy Palix Unlimited, recalled Mugler’s maxim: “My measure is excess.”

“It was a favorite motto that he applied to his fashion as well as to his life and work. Everything about him was excess and the search for perfection, everything was a challenge,” said Palix.

“He was a designer of fabulous fashion and shows, but he also had an extraordinarily developed and original nose, participating in all our olfactive meetings to choose those singular ‘gourmand’ vanilla and patchouli notes for Angel, and the audacious cashmeran and jasmine accord for Alien,” said Palix.

Mugler’s imagination was transformative for perfumery, according to Michael Edwards, fragrance historian and author.

“From the start, Angel was designed to be a perfume like no other. ‘I want something mouth-watering and tasty, which reminds of my childhood,’” Edwards recalled Mugler saying, adding the designer specified it should be “the scent of a fairground, candy floss, little cakes, chocolates, caramels and things like that.”

“Mugler loved the name Angel; it had a touch of heaven and earth,” said Edwards.

He quoted Mugler as saying: “Every star has its guardian angel, and every woman is an angel. What kind of angel? That’s for us to choose. We can look like an angel one minute, and be a little devil the next.”

Angel has always been a divisive fragrance: Some find it shocking, while others are addicted.

“Its sheer originality mirrored the designer’s fashion philosophy: ‘To dress is to step into the limelight,’” said Edwards, adding that Mugler’s legacy of olfactive desserts continues to captivate perfumers. “There’s a new star in the sky.”

For more, see:

Celebrities, Fashion Industry Mourns Manfred Thierry Mugler

Manfred Thierry Mugler Photos Throughout The Years

French Designer Manfred Thierry Mugler Dies at 73