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MUGLER – The art of resurrection

MUGLER is a French fashion house founded by Manfred Thierry Mugler in 1973. The house has undergone creative changes over its near half-century history but its commitment to femininity in all forms has solidified the house as an industry success. Today, creative control falls to the responsibility of Casey Cadwallader, who came to the helm before Mr Mugler’s death in January 2022. 

The fashion world was undisputedly rocked by the pandemic, and in 2020 the classic hallmarks of the runway had to be forfeited for a world existing within the blue hue of computers, phones, and TVs. The ill-fated timing of the pandemic coincided with the rebirth of MUGLER, finally beginning to resurrect itself after a long period of being known only for fragrance. Casey Cadwallader’s appointment as creative director signalled a new age in the business and a new direction in fashion altogether. Under Cadwallader, the house created a series of three films to exhibit its new seasonal collections.

On the eve of the global shutdown, MUGLER was offering concepts and silhouettes in Paris, that remained classic but did not offer a visionary approach. The new creative direction was habitually met with tepid reviews and little attention was spared to the house, desperate for reinvention. Casey Cadwallader’s MUGLER wasn’t the brave new direction critics wished for. The shows were set in often forgettable Parisienne settings and the grandeur of Dior and Saint Laurent’s spectacles often left MUGLER feeling like the forgotten name it had become. The startle of the pandemic offered MUGLER and its creatives a chance to remove the borders of the runway and exist in ways many couldn’t expect.

The first film released for the Spring/Summer 2021 collection was an explosive upheaval. MUGLER was reborn, instantly, loudly, and quickly, creating new house codes and offering the world at home a portal into the glamour, drama, and theatrics of Casey Cadwallader’s new house. MUGLER’s muse, Bella Hadid, strut into this new era, parading Cadwallader’s designs in a digitally rendered way reflective of the pandemic era where the human figure had become so fondly missed. Her lifeless face, immortalised by CGI, was the first moment in what many regard as the metamorphosis of MUGLER. Another reminder of the isolated age created by the pandemic. The near 4-minute film is a clear statement in the direction of short-form content; the film is fast-paced and cinematic, appealing to a generation more interested in 15-second TikToks, than a 20-minute drag down a runway. The speed and momentum in the film give MUGLER a futuristic quality, yet to be replicated by its contemporaries, and whilst many endeavoured to follow this trend, the crown rests firmly in Cadwallader’s hands.

The ‘gimmick’ of digital fashion may appeal to the watching public, but the traditional sartorial press could have cast MUGLER aside once again in the name of convention. But Cadwallader’s vision never faded and was met with glowing praise, his commitment to diversity and classic styles has elevated MUGLER’s prêt-a-porter and provided a contemporary and wearable edge. Heavy denims, boiler suits, corset tops and blazers all feature in this era of accessibility; and the snobbery of 90s couture has been readily abandoned for styles the paying public may be more inclined to purchase. These key elements of simplicity drew in the masses and MUGLER is now stocked in Selfridges and Harrods.

These designs are for all women. At the core of these choreographed spectacles is the celebration of femininity; women from TV, film, sport, music, and activism all unite in the neat tailoring of Cadwallader’s collections. Fashion casting seldom represents women in minority groups, but again power is handed to the wearer and MUGLER has a cast that reflects society at large rather than a privileged few. Dominique Jackson, Megan Thee Stallion, Lourdes Leon, Irina Shayk, and Sora Choi are the superstars, these women are uplifted and empowered, a far cry from the exposing and arguably dated couture collections of Schiaparelli and Balenciaga. This empowerment of women has been a constant for MUGLER, exhibited by Cadwallader’s predecessors, and is undeniably a key principle for the house.

Dua Lipa is one of many names who wear Cadwallader’s designs. Due Lipa is pictured at the Future Nostalgia Tour. Credit – Erin MC.

Following the breakout success of the first film, two more followed again directed by TORSO Solutions, these films grew in theatrics and did not leave any doubt as to the resurrection of MUGLER. The thumping club beats from Queer artists like SHYGIRL and COBRAH littered throughout the films were an injection of life and dynamism that made MUGLER desirable once again. MUGLER is now donned by the youngest starlets in Hollywood and the MUGLER celebrity appeal is reenergising to rival even the Versace and Louis Vuitton corporate machines.

As we approach fashion weeks across Europe and North America, the industry needs to follow MUGLER’s example and pursue more inclusive casting choices and more wearable designs. The age of exclusion purveyed by the oldest houses is quickly becoming redundant and the passion behind MUGLER’s commitment to women, in all forms, is refreshing to the watching public. Despite the scale of misery in the pandemic, MUGLER reemerged triumphantly, and this momentum should be harnessed and carried into the collections in 2023 and beyond.



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