Inside The Brooklyn Museum's 'Thierry Mugler: Couturissime' Exhibition

On view from November 18, 2022, to May 7, 2023.

Fashion
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First shown at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, then in Germany, the Netherlands and France, the traveling Thierry Mugler: Couturissime exhibition has officially landed at its final destination: New York City’s Brooklyn Museum. There, exhibition curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot and the museum’s senior curator of fashion Matthew Yokobosky have adapted the limitless, historical showcase for New York’s fashion crowd, now on view from November 18, 2022, to May 7, 2023.

Spanning haute couture designs and unpublished archives, the exhibition houses more than 100 looks (most of which are on view for the first time) along with accessories, videos, photographs, sketches and fragrances that define Manfred Thierry Mugler‘s unequivocal stamp on fashion. It’s the first retrospective to explore the French designer’s imaginative, no-holds-barred universe — a daring world that he first began curating in the 1970s.

Originally a dancer for the Ballet de l’Ópera national du Rhin, Mugler had an intimate understanding of the human form, one that proved pivotal in the creation of his legacy-defining silhouettes. In the ’70s, the designer coined his clientele “glamazon” (a conflation of “glamour” and “Amazon”), a fashionable, modern woman whose style had elevated since the hippie codes of the ’60s. Throughout his career, Mugler’s penchant for risk-taking, be it through boundary-pushing silhouettes or unlikely fabrics (think glass, PVC, vinyl, latex and chrome), set a new tone in fashion via stylized provocation, fembot couture and rewritten codes. In the ’80s and ’90s, he spearheaded the renaissance of haute couture with thought-provoking collections and theatrical presentations, which, to this day, continue to impact fashion’s landscape.

The exhibition champions Mugler’s industry-altering portfolio by theme, separating the designer’s interests into rooms dedicated to fantasy, glamour, science fiction, eroticism and the natural world. In the Brooklyn Museum’s Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing and Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, the showcase begins with a life-size hologram of Mugler’s designs for a theatrical production of La Tragédie de Macbeth, presented by the Comédie-Française at the 1985 Festival d’Avignon. To the left, there’s a wall filled with sketches for the play; and on the right, enlarged text chronicles Mugler’s journey over five decades.

In the following corridors, the visionary’s designs claim the spotlight, lined against the wall in sartorial coordination. Upon entrance, Mugler’s FW95 Venus dress, which Cardi B wore to the 61st Grammy Awards in 2019, attracts the eye at first glance. Next to it, Mugler’s haute couture FW97 embroidered velvet pagoda jacket and baroque basques Muslin-crested skirt become acquainted with a FW95 fitted, velvet evening coat with crystal and feather embellishments.

In galleries designed by Berlin artist Philipp Fürhofer, Mugler’s futuristic silhouettes, inspired by science fiction and comic-book superheroines, medieval armor and uniforms, appear in battle-ready legions. He collaborated with Jean-Pierre Delcros and Jean-Jacques Urcun to create robotic humans, which wear FW95 metal and Plexiglas full-body catsuits and FW89 bustiers with “radiator grille” and “headlight” adornments at the showcase. A standout, the designer’s prized creation, Maschinenmensch, which debuted in 1995 during his 20th-anniversary show, reflects a full armor suit that took six months to produce.

In the foreground of natural scenes, the “Metamorphosis” gallery highlights adventurous silhouettes from Mugler’s “Les Insectes” and “La Chimère” collections from 1997-98. Front and center, the exhibition spotlights a black velvet sheath and train adorned with feathered butterfly wings and a dress donning iridescent scales with crystal embroidery. In the left corner, the designer’s haute couture FW99 “Méduse de bal” gown stands confidently, with coated and pleated organza bodice and double crinoline; and on the opposite side, there’s an haute couture SS97 catsuit and velvet satin cape, worn by Kylie Jenner during the exhibition’s opening.

Elsewhere, there’s a gallery dedicated to Mugler’s iconic fragrances, with a new section honoring the 30th anniversary of the House’s Angel scent. (Notably, the fragrance’s inclusion of ethyl maltol, a sweetening food compound, single-handedly launched a new perfume category: gourmand.) Couturissime also traverses Mugler’s iconic fashion photography, showcasing works by artists and collaborators including Lillian Bassman, Guy Bourdin, David LaChapelle, Karl Lagerfeld, Sarah Moon, Pierreet Gilles, Herb Ritts and Ellen von Unwerth. Naturally, the exhibition dedicates a sizable portion to Mugler’s lifelong collaborations with photographer Helmut Newton, specifically with 23 works on view.

“The constant innovations, inventions, and avant-garde architectural silhouettes in the work of Mugler have marked an era,” said Loriot. “His singular style found a place in the history of fashion that still has a powerful influence on today’s generation of couturiers, not only because of its designs but also because of the strong message of inclusivity, diversity, and empowerment in his body of work.”

Casey Cadwallader, creative director of Mugler, added, “I’m so excited to bring Couturissime to Brooklyn. The exhibition is a vibrant journey through Manfred Thierry Mugler’s vision and legacy. A true creative running in his own lane, everything he touched, from silhouettes and craft to casting and fragrance, was different. He was always true to himself because it was the only way he knew how to be.”

Tickets for The Brooklyn Museum’s Thierry Mugler: Couturissime exhibition can be reserved on the museum’s website. Take a closer look inside the showcase in the gallery above.

Elsewhere, Moncler launched a celebratory Maya 70 jacket in collaboration with Pierpaolo Piccioli.

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