What’s the way our inspiration is being born? A fragment of a well-known melody once performed differently, first rays of the vernal sun prodding us to unbutton our warm coats, somebody’s improvisation seen accidentally on empty stage, a sophisticated phrase said out of place… But mostly it’s the Creativity itself acting as an impulse to build and to give birth to something real and conscious – beautiful astonishing creativity of the personality. That’s what our current story is telling about. And the International Dance Day is the best time to discover new imaginative edges in creations of the magnificent artist – Manfred Thierry Mugler.
Author: Katerina Bornovitskaya
Photo: Alisa Aslanova
This May Prima ballerina Olga Smirnova performs with ‘Postscript’ show on the Bolshoi stage. The program consists of four one-act ballets staged by star choreographers of nowadays – Paul Lightfoot, Sol Leon, Alexei Ratmansky, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Wayne McGregor. Today it’s about the last one, and being more precise about his ballet, created in collaboration with the genius artist and couturier, who’s become a real sensation of the fashion world, industry and art in 1980s. Their common creation is simply named ‘McGregor + Mugler’, and by no means this is pure visual, sensual and aesthetic pleasure. Specifically the stunning cosmic images by Mugler inspired our editor-in-chief Alisa Aslanova not only to create an exceptional and futuristic photo session with Olga Smirnova, but also propelled her to discover a totally new creative galaxy – #GalaxybyAslanova, where the ballet and the space interlace with each other in delicate revelation and tender harmony. The moment I saw these very special and unique works, I immediately got a wish to tell their story, from which another story was born – about life and creative journey of a great dreamer and visionary of the most expressive fashion époque; and probably about the most ballet designer – Manfred Thierry Mugler.
Architecture of Dance
One of the most priceless ballet hallows is the over-understanding of beauty and human body perfection. So there is hardly a surprise that before turning into the world famous fashion designer and becoming an icon for several fashion generations Manfred Thierry Mugler has practiced classical choreography and performed with the ballet company of Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg. In common he dedicated more than 10 years to different forms of dance and gymnastics – beside the classical ballet Mugler practiced acrobatics, trapeze and some authentic Indian dancing arts such as Kathakali – a very specific mix of choreography, dramatic theatre and pantomime, traditionally performed in lunar nights at open space and usually lasting till dawn.
Thierry Mugler combined his work in the theatre with studying – he entered Strasbourg School of Decorative Arts, the department of interior design. The architecture has lured him since childhood – thankfully his home city keeps the variety of treasures, no wonder its center has been classified a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its unique architectural legacy.
Years later there are exactly dance and architecture to meet in designer’s creations in sophisticated, artful and stunning interlacing. The static character, geometrical and sculptural approach from one side, and from the other – the constant movement, slithering plasticity, exceptional delicacy and lightness, with the immense background of titanic work. The iconic silhouette – boldly wide shoulders, the waist tightened in corset, slim-line skirt, showing off the sculptural hip shapes… Fantasy crinolines on solid hoops, tutu’s variations, textured basque flounces… Essential gothic spirit going through the collections… And all this is mixed in total madness but at the same way with the absolute harmony. And you are losing a thread where the one ends and the other begins. This is the amazing Mugler’s language in which he writes his highly intricate artistic texts.
By no means, Thierry Mugler is the great master of shocking. But his difference from other enfants terribles of 1980-90ss lays in inner discipline and feeling of balance, which are so important for keeping the beauty of lines and for not overstepping the delicate edge that divides sensual from vulgar, and excellent from odious.
Stars, Angels and Aliens
Thierry Mugler’s star was born for the world of fashion in mid-70s of the XX century. He moved from his home city Strasbourg to Paris, where he worked as a interior decorator and freelance designer for some time. But in 1974 he represented the first collection under his name – Café de Paris. And it determined at once the unique style of couturier and his fashion house – the style to which he was deeply loyal during all his career. In the midst of hippie ages, his Hollywood divas in maxi-skirts, with thinner waists and irreproachable hairstyles made an effect of the fantastic explosion.
And then a swift journey to the absolute success began – the opening of his first Paris boutique at Place de Victoires, famous clients who fell in love with the expressive sensuality and sophistication of his unique style; the fashion shows, each of those had been turning into the fashion sensation and creative revelation. In 1992 by the invitation of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Thierry Mugler represented his first haute couture collection in the legendary hotel ‘Ritz’ in Paris.
Also in 1992 the designer launched his debut female fragrance – legendary Angel. It was the first perfume in history to include not a single floral accord, the body of the composition consists mostly of woody and dessert notes. Curious crystal bottle makes a shape of an asymmetric light blue star – this star has become a leitmotif of the designer’s creative journey. Stars shining brightly in the Alsace skies, stars as the cosmic symbol, that has always existed in Mugler’s works… Starry beauties of the super-model époque – from Jerry to Cindy, from Naomi to Kate – pacing the catwalks during his exclusive fashion-shows. Star actors wearing Mugler at the red carpets, world stages and Hollywood movies. He created the look and style for Victor Lazlo at her Eurovision performance, stage costumes for David Bowie and Diana Ross, formal dresses for Iman and Ivana Trump… And also that iconic black dress Demi Moore was trying on so seductively the moment she was noticed by Robert Redford’s hero in ‘The Indecent Proposal’.
Stars shining over the fantasy universe of Manfred Thierry Mugler inhabited by the bravest ideas and fanciest beauties… The Universe he’s been constantly creating for all his outstanding artistic life.
Life is a Show
Once an artist, always an artist. But the stage gives not only the overwhelming sense of human physical beauty, a wish to live in a spot of light or to soak in the waves of constant applause. But it also gives the understanding of staging rules and the specifics of physicality, it brings awareness of what a titanic work is hidden beyond the airy perfection that sometimes lasts not longer than a couple of minutes. The artistic life made significant influence onto Mugler’s creative thought. Expressive, phantasmagoric, thunder-striking, hyperbolized, achieving the utmost perfection – that’s what his art and life have always been like.
In a very beginning of his career he staged his every appearance on public as a little performance, inventing curious complicated looks. All his fashion-shows either pret-e-porter or haut couture remind more of grandiose theatre works than of a classical defile. And it’s not only about the clothes.
The image of every demonstrating model was thoroughly elaborated up to the tiniest details – from heel shapes to nail edges. The shows had lasted for 40-50 minutes, hundreds of looks floated one after another and every of them appeared as a unique masterpiece. You could hardly find two repeated make-ups or hairstyles. Every show was performed in its own unique way of inspiration. For example, ‘Les Atlantes’ of 1998 discover the secrets of deep blue abyss and refer to the perfect super humans and merpeople inhabiting under water depths. The stage decorations represented giant seashells, the draperies garnishing dresses and jackets imitated gills, and all shades of blue were prevailing…
And his grand defile season Fall-Winter 1995, dedicated to the XXth anniversary of the fashion house carries us to the giant circus where the cosmic wonder women, paradise birds and futuristic movie stars are reigning the show. The back decoration of a fancy catwalk built at a real circus arena was embellished with an asymmetric blue star. Every model at Mugler shows plays a thoroughly lined-up role. She is a heroine of a special story, a character so artfully painted and brought to life, a character who dances, plays pantomime, interacts with audience. That’s why Thierry Mugler originally is much more than a designer, even more than a couturier. He is an artist, a stage designer, a director and a choreographer of his universe… He is an ideal embodiment of “life is a show” concept. Albeit he has officially left fashion industry, his show still goes on and his amazing creativity continues to bring joy to everyone who loves and appreciates the original beauty.
Not all about fashion
Being yet a designer and a head of a fashion house, Thierry Mugler successfully explored different creative directions and forms of art – photography as an example. He personally shot many of his advertising campaigns. In 2020 Abrahams Books published a special edition of a album-book Manfred Thierry Mugler, Photographer. Every picture is a unique piece of art. The most beautiful photo-models are captured in the curious and amazing locations all over the world – glaciers of Greenland, sands of Sahara, volcanic beaches of Hawaiian islands, rooftops of Opera Garnier and wheat field of yet the Soviet Russia…
Besides in 1992 Mugler directed the iconic music video to the George Michael’s song ‘Too Funky’, legendary top-models starring – Linda, Nadja, Eva, Tyra and Estella.
Almost 20 years ago in 2002 Thierry Mugler quit the industry, but not the art. He returned to his real first name Manfred which he had to skip during his fashion career, started bodybuilding and totally concentrated on personal art projects. He created impressive historical costumes for Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ staged by La Comedie-Francaise, collaborated with Cirque du Soleil for ‘Zumanity’ show, performed as an art director and a costume designer for Beyoncé’s ‘I am…’ World tour. He staged the shows ‘Mugler Follies’ and ‘The Wylde’, and created a breathtaking Met Gala ‘wet’ dress for Kim Kardashian… Finally he acts as a co-creator of the ‘McGregor + Mugler’ – a ballet that has given a birth to the current story.
And here we would like to express a huge creative, artistic and human gratitude from La Personne magazine and all our team. We say ‘thank you’ to Manfred Thierry Mugler, the genius artist, fearless inventor and the greatest trailblazer for his Art, his legacy and his beautiful universe that continues spreading an eternal inspiration and prodding us to go on searching and exploring our personal new galaxies.
Olga Smirnova about her creative work with Manfred Thierry Mugler:
The creating process of this short ballet, I can’t say it’s been easy, though it is always like that when a new creation is being born. In rather short terms, I had to learn a totally new choreographic style of McGregor and I hadn’t danced his ballets before. But the collaboration with iconic Thierry Mugler is worth a separate story. For the first time I was working with such a legend. Of course, the visual concept of the ballet was totally created by Thierry due to his avant-garde costumes which may totally transform while performing. The peculiarity of the woman’s look is in an extremely thin waist – a brand-mark of Mugler’s language. It has been achieved by wearing a very tight corset, that squeezes the lungs and makes your moves less wide and voluminous. And this is a significant restriction for McGregor’s choreography. As a result, Mugler agreed to some adjustments and concocted a lighter version of corset.
In other part the choreographer had to adapt, taking into account costume specifics, where my partner and me performed in stunning masks which were totally identical to our faces. Surely, it’s hard to dance when a mask impedes breathing and for watching around you have just narrow slits. As a result, the movements appeared to be explicit and volumetric. I was surprised by Mugler’s deeply precise approach, his attention to details. Tiny insignificant things simply do not exist for him; every nuance works for image. He personally guided the process of my make-up creating, and make-up lasted for nearly two hours. Slight shades of colour, eye-lines, the quantity of rhinestones – all that was important. He is a real perfectionist.
I think the way he worked with me it was by the rules of the fashion world, where the slightest details are important in front of a photo camera. Anyhow, here it also has brought the results. And he’s always known what he wants to achieve, but fittings with him have turned into a show with a huge group of people involved: assistants, helpmates, photographers. Life has constantly swirled around him. The transforming costumes create some kind of a plot, when at a first appearance the aliens chained up into glittering armours get rid of them and gain the shapes of animals and birds.
And the final touching adagio proclaims to my mind a triumph of personal and humanistic against automation and computerization which imminently approach in our present times. It occurs to me this piece to be a forerunner for the new art forms including the music created with the machine’s assistance. I haven’t ever seen something similar in the ballet world before.
The ‘Postscript’ show will take place on May 25th and 26th at the Bolshoi Theatre (New Stage).
Producing company MuzArts Production.