Dezeen Magazine

Theirry Mugler: Couturissme fashion exhibition in Montreal

Thierry Mugler exhibition in Montreal includes garments for "dangerous seductresses"

The first major exhibition of fashion by French designer Thierry Mugler, presented at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, examines his visions for "metamorphoses, superheroines and cyborgs".

Around 150 outfits will be showcased as part of Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, which opens 2 March 2019 at MMFA.

Couturissme exhibit by Thierry Mugler
Thierry Mugler: Couturissime includes 150 dramatic ensembles created by the French fashion house. Photography by Nicolas Ruel

Made between 1977 and 2014, the pieces demonstrate the creative prowess of the house of Thierry Mugler, which is credited with revolutionising the fashion industry, and particularly haute couture, with its theatrical designs.

The exhibition marks the first comprehensive retrospective of his work, bringing together garments, accessories and costumes alongside photography, video and archival sketches.

Couturissme exhibit by Thierry Mugler
The exhibition marks the first major retrospective of works by Mugler, ranging from 1977 to 2014. Photograph by Nicolas Ruel

"People have offered to exhibit my work a number of times, but the idea of simply looking back has never interested me," Thierry Mugler, who now goes by Manfred, said in a statement. "There is no future without a past, so I hope that this exhibition will inspire in its visitors a new creative future."

Mugler is known for his structural garments, and innovative use of unusual materials like glass, chrome car parts and LEDs lights.

His outfits often feature exaggerated and powerful – yet feminine – silhouettes, and are celebrated for their imagination and transformative qualities.

Couturissme exhibit by Thierry Mugler
Many of the garments appear futuristic, and are made from unusual materials. Photograph by Nicolas Ruel

"Metamorphoses, superheroines and cyborgs inhabit the work of this designer who perceived early on, and with considerable humour, the coming transhumanist revolutions," said MMFA director general and chief curator Nathalie Bondil.

"His sleek, elegant creatures, his dangerous seductresses, populate a world of glamour at the edges of reality."

Couturissme exhibit by Thierry Mugler
Mugler's creations often featured daring silhouettes, like this outfit from his Les Insectes spring/summer 1997 collection. Photograph by Patrice Stable

The Parisian house of Thierry Mugler was set up by its namesake in 1973. Its rise coincided with the supermodel era, and figures like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista were all photographed in Mugler designs.

However, parent company Clarins – which bought the brand in 1997 – closed it down in 2003 following significant losses.

Yasmin Le Bon wearing Thierry Mugler's La Chimère gown
Theatrical designs like La Chimère gown from the fall/winter 1997-1998 collection, shown here on Yasmin Le Bon, feature in the exhibition. Photograph by Alan Strutt

After a reboot, Italian-Japanese designer Nicola Formichetti served as the brand's creative director from 2010 to 2013, before British designer David Koma took the helm.

In the run-up to the MMFA exhibition, vintage Mugler designs have reappeared on several celebrities, including Cardi B – who wore a piece from his 1995-96 couture collection to the 2019 Grammy Awards – and Kim Kardashian at various recent events.

Couturissme exhibit by Thierry Mugler
Mugler's clothes continually appear in pop culture, such as this outfit from fall/winter 1995-1996, worn by Lady Gaga in her Telephone music video

But his garments have continually cropped up in popular culture for many years: Demi Moore's black dress in 1993 movie Indecent Proposal; costumes for Beyoncé's 2009 I Am... World Tour; Lady Gaga's black-and-white ensemble in the 2010 music video for Telephone.

Mugler also directed and designed the costumes for George Michael's Too Funky music video in 1992, and worked on outfits for David Bowie.

Couturissme exhibit by Thierry Mugler
Emma Sjöberg wore this look in George Michael’s Too Funky music video, which Mugler directed and designed the costumes for. Photograph by Patrice Stable

On the catwalk, his dramatic clothes appeared in stark contrast to those of his minimalist peers, like Calvin Klein and Helmut Lang.

"Thierry Mugler not only left his mark on his era, he revolutionised fashion with his creations in sculptural forms that are both futuristic and elegant," exhibition curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot. "He staged the most spectacular fashion shows and breathed new life into haute couture, notably through the use of new materials such as metal, latex and faux fur."

"His distinctive style transcended trends, and continues to influence a new generation of couturiers," he added.

Couturissme exhibit by Thierry Mugler
The MMFA exhibition is divided into six "acts", each with a different theme or focus. Photograph by Nicolas Ruel

Mugler collaborated with the museum team on the showcase, which is divided into six "acts".

One gallery will be dedicated to Mugler's collaboration with photographer Helmut Newton, which resulted in imagery that amplifies the clothing's otherworldly appearance. Photos by Karl Lagerfeld, Jean-Paul Goude, Guy Bourdin, David LaChapelle and many more will also be on show across the exhibition.

Couturissme exhibit by Thierry Mugler
The exhibition's the Metamorphosis gallery will incorporate visual imagery and special effects by Rodeo FX. Photograph by Nicolas Ruel

The Futuristic and Fembot Couture section will feature a layout created by German designer Philipp Fürhofer, while the Metamorphosis gallery will incorporate visual imagery and special effects by studio Rodeo FX.

Five crystal chandeliers by Dutch designer Tord Boontje will hang above the Belle de jour and Belle de nuit area.

Couturissme exhibit by Thierry Mugler
Dutch designer Tord Boontje created the chandeliers that hang over the show's Belle de jour and Belle de nuit section. Photograph by Nicolas Ruel

Thierry Mugler: Couturissime will run until 8 September 2019, before embarking on an international tour that will include tenures at the Kunsthal Rotterdam (12 October 2019 – 8 March 2020) and at the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung in Munich (3 April – 30 August 2020).

Among other fashion exhibitions around the world are a current presentation of works by Christian Dior at London's V&A museum, and an upcoming show themed around "camp" at The Met in New York.