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Stars pay tribute after French designer Thierry Mugler dies aged 73

The flamboyant creator rose to fame in the 1980s and was known for his ‘power dressing, Mugler woman’ silhouette

A selection of Thierry Mugler perfumes on a branded shelf

Thierry Mugler’s perfumes, including the iconic Angel and Alien, are credited with starting the “gourmand” scent style, and were just one of the designer’s many projects Pic: Grzegorz Czapski / Shutterstock

French fashion designer Thierry Mugler has died at the age of 73, prompting an outpouring of tributes from fashion stars around the world.

Mr Mugler was known for his outlandish, fantasy-like, haute couture designs, and shot to fame on the Paris fashion scene in the 1980s.

He passed away on Sunday, January 23, from natural causes, his press officer confirmed.

A post on the designer’s Facebook page reads: “We are devastated to announce the passing of Mr Manfred Thierry Mugler on Sunday January 23rd 2022. May his soul rest in peace.”

His press officer said that the death had come suddenly. The designer was still working on multiple projects and had been set to announce new collaborations at the start of this week, he said.

Among the thousands to have left tributes to the designer on his Instagram page announcement are supermodel Heidi Klum, fashion photographer Mario Testino, songwriter and former French “first lady” Carla Bruni, and Italian fashion editor Anna Dello Russo. 

Georgia May Jagger, model and daughter of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, commented: “I cannot believe this is true. Sending love to you all. Thierry was a force of creativity and kindness.” 

Australian singer and star Kylie Minogue wrote: “Deepest condolences. A true visionary. Thank you for your art, Manfred.”

Born in Strasbourg in 1948, Mr Mugler danced in the ballet of the Rhin Opera before taking decorative arts classes in the city. He started to create his own clothes from those he bought at flea markets, and at the age of 20, went to live in Paris in a bid to work for another ballet.

Instead, his own flair for fashion saw him become a freelance stylist, taking him to work for several fashion houses in Paris, London, and Milan.

He created his first label, Cafe de Paris, in 1973, and set up the Thierry Mugler brand a year later. 

The “Mugler woman”, “power dressing” silhouette would become known for having accentuated shoulders, deep necklines and corseted torsos, and was popular the world over, especially with celebrities such as Jerry Hall and supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Having started his career in performance, he carried this approach through to his fashion shows, and became known for memorable, theatrical events. 

For the 10th anniversary of his fashion house in 1984, he held a 600-person rock-concert style show at the Zénith arena in Paris, charging 178 francs (27) per ticket.

In 1985, the designer’s male collection sparked a flurry of interest after then-Culture Minister Jack Lang wore a suit with a so-called “Mao collar”, which scandalised the benches of the Assemblee nationale.

Mr Mugler launched his first perfume, Angel, in 1992. Its distinctive, sweet smell and angular star-shaped bottle made it an instant, global success, which even managed to knock the legendary Chanel No5 off the sales top spot. It is sometimes credited for starting the “gourmand” perfume style.

Later, Mr Mugler would “quit” the world of fashion and haute couture, and transformed his own physical appearance with bodybuilding and cosmetic surgery, and began practising meditation and yoga.

He once said: “My first priority was to reclaim my body, worn out by my years of dancing and couture, as a rebirth, a way to erase the past.” He then asked to be called Manfred T. Mugler.

At the time, Thierry-Maxime Loriot, commissioner of a Mugler exhibition produced by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, said: “Mr Mugler wanted to break away from haute couture, which he felt was for the elite, and show that young people could also wear haute couture; and that it could be something other than a dress for a fancy party.”

In 2013 and 2014, the designer revisited his theatrical roots further, and launched a cabaret-style show named Mugler Follies in a Parisian theatre. Performers of all shapes and sizes took part, as well as a ventriloquist, acrobats, strongmen and singers.

At the time, he told the AFP that for “a long time”, he had wanted to set up such a show, as “free art, ‘joie de vivre’ and an exchange where everything is possible”.

He said: “I don’t really ‘miss’ fashion. I do a lot more now, from architecture, design, putting together a magazine, directing…When I was a designer, it was just about performing to clients. Now, it’s a narrative; a story, shows, films…”

Mr Mugler officially retired from fashion in 2002, but many modern stars such as Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian still favour his silhouette and vintage pieces.

In September 2021, American rapper Cardi B posed next to Mr Mugler for the opening of the "Thierry Mugler, Couturissime" exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. She wore a red-sequined dress topped with feathers, in a typical Mugler flamboyant style.

More recently, photos on the designer’s Instagram account show Kim Kardashian – who is herself famous for her accentuated silhouette – posing for photos wearing a metallic, cowboy-style Halloween costume, which had been designed by Mugler himself.

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