The guest list was small (200 people). The collection was concise (27 looks). And the designer making his runway debut was a relative unknown: Casey Cadwallader, who worked behind the scenes at Acne Studios before taking the helm of Mugler last year. So what was Cardi B, a one-woman celebrity tsunami, doing in the front row?
There’s no denying that since showing a handful of looks in an intimate presentation with editors in New York in May, Cadwallader has brought Mugler back into the public conversation in a way that it hadn’t been since Lady Gaga walked for the brand back in 2011, when Nicola Formichetti was creative director.
Gigi and Bella Hadid wore Cadwallader’s designs: Gigi looking demure in a bubblegum pink jersey dress with drawstring details, Bella in bionic Barbie mode at the Harper’s Bazaar Icons party at New York Fashion Week — her corseted nude jumpsuit sadly overshadowed by Cardi B’s now-infamous clash with Nicki Minaj.
Both extremes were on show in his spring collection, which offered a distillation of the building blocks the designer is laying at the house.
He reeled them off backstage: sculptural tailoring, as seen in the black jacket with spiral seams that opened the show; corsetry, by way of stretchy athletic waistbands, hook-and-eye bodysuits and cycling shorts with lacing details; fluidity, with sheer jersey or crepe de chine dresses, including one in signature Mugler celestial blue, and an art dimension, via a collaboration with British artist Samara Scott.
The latter pieces were visually captivating, though conceptual at best. One model wore a marbled red top and cycling shorts made from pigments mixed with latex cast on glass. A tailored PVC coat featured inclusions of “chain clippings, jewelry, cigarettes, sweet wrappers, painkillers, chewing gum, kleenex, orange peel” and oodles of other odd ingredients, per the show notes.
A more realistic alternative was a blurry print silk nylon skirt, gathered over one hip, worn with a hook-and-eye bodysuit and mesh corset belt. Spiral-seam jeans, body-con dresses and big-shouldered jackets made for a strong commercial foundation.
“For me, Mugler is for everyone, and I think if someone who is a superstar wants to flaunt and make a really big statement, Mugler should be there for them, but then on the total other side, I want to make women comfortable and feel great in their own skin in jeans and a T-shirt,” Cadwallader said.
Cardi B’s bethonged derrière may have got the cameras flashing, but his designs had plenty of wattage on their own.