Fulfilling a dream of the late Manfred Thierry Mugler, the hit “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime” exhibition that debuted in Montreal in 2019 will make its final stop at the Brooklyn Museum.
The comprehensive retrospective, with an expanded focus on Mugler’s contributions to the fragrance world, is slated to open to the public on Nov. 18 and run through May 7.
The display coincides with the 30th anniversary of Angel, the groundbreaking blue-tinted fragrance in a star-shaped bottle, and it will get its own room in the Brooklyn, New York, version.
“From Day One, we had New York in mind,” said Sandrine Groslier, global brand president of Mugler fashion and fragrances, calling that fashion capital “the second city of his heart,” where the French house’s founder had lived for more than 15 years, most recently in a giant triplex in Chelsea, New York.
“The U.S. market has always been very important for the Mugler brand, and especially for Angel,” Groslier said, calling America its number-one market for ready-to-wear, and one of the top three for fragrances.
Indeed, the perfume that pioneered an entirely new category — gourmand — had its global launch in New York, and took over all the windows of the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship, the first time that had been done for a French couturier.
While the two rooms dedicated to perfumes are still being conceived, “we want people to enter the fragrance world of Manfred Mugler. He was so happy to mark this anniversary in New York,” Groslier said.
She noted that Mugler was not only a maverick with scents and fragrance packaging, he was a pioneer in proposing refillable bottles and nurturing connections with consumers, initially inserting a small envelope inside each bottle of Angel inviting women to write to him and join “the adventure of the brand.” (Now they can simply scan a QR code and join the Mugler Circle loyalty program.)
Organized thematically according to recurring Mugler fashion themes — fantasy, glamour, science fiction, eroticism and the natural world — the exhibition will showcase about 130 outfits as well as accessories, videos, photographs and sketches.
Groslier noted that the Mugler house, founded in 1974, has one of the largest fashion archives in France, boasting more than 6,000 pieces of rtw and couture and more than 5,000 accessories and jewelry items.
More than a million people have already visited the “Couturissime” exhibition, initiated by curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and ultimately setting down in Munich, Paris and Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Loriot adapted the exhibition for the Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing and the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery in concert with Matthew Yokobosky, senior curator of fashion and material culture at the Brooklyn Museum, which has also dedicated exhibitions to several French designers, notably Christian Dior last year, Pierre Cardin in 2019 and Jean Paul Gaultier in 2013.
Yokobosky noted that every exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum is adapted for its audiences, “so of of course we want to emphasize his relationships with local and American performers like Cardi B, Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian — women who sought his talents as a designer to assist them in developing images of spectacle for our Instagram metaverse.”
Cue the “superheroine,” one of Mugler’s key archetypes.
“Mugler designed for actual women with fashions that brought forward the signs and symbols of power, and in a sense, provided the most extreme visualization of these ideas,” Yokobosky explained.
Groslier, who worked with Manfred Mugler for 26 years, stressed that his affection for America nurtured his creativity, and the market “was one of the first that adopted the Mugler brand.”
Among the most indelible images in the history of Mugler, lensed by the designer in 1988, depicts model Claude Heidemeyer sprawled on one of the silver eagles jutting out from the 61st floor of the Chrysler Building in New York.
“His clothes were seen worn by American women in truly American locations, which visually amplified his association with and love for New York and America,” Yokobosky noted.
Among other American celebrities who have famously worn Mugler are Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Megan Thee Stallion, not forgetting such famous models as Cindy Crawford, Pat Cleveland and Christy Turlington.
Works by American photographers including Steven Klein and David LaChapelle are included in the Brooklyn showcase.
Mugler, now controlled by French beauty giant L’Oréal, had in 2017 recruited American designer Casey Cadwallader as its new artistic director of women’s rtw.