Club-camp theatrics, and lace galore: Thierry Mugler’s SS23 fall ready-to-wear delights with its show-stopping post-lockdown return.
As Paris’s Haute Couture week drew to a close at the end of January 2023, designer fashion house Mugler hosted their Fall ready-to-wear collection for 2023. The collection was presented at its first in-person show since lockdown and the passing of the brand’s creator Manfred Thierry Mugler. It earned attention and praise for its technical theatrics and diverse set of models and celebrity guests.
The looks were dominated by black, leather and lace. Some models walked with body suits, gloves, and tights made entirely of lace which were wound around the contours of the body. The leather was fashioned into bulky racer jackets, knee-high boots as well as asymmetrical suits, dresses, and corsets. The whole collection had clear inspirations and themes from Mugler’s shows of the past, and celebrated the edgier bondage-esque looks often found in queer nightlife communities and club scenes.
Another aspect of the show that gained praise was the diverse selection of models and celebrity guests that walked the runway. Notably, Arca, trans-non-binary electronic musician, DJ, and music producer and actor Dominique Jackson (known for her role as Elektra in Pose). Whilst this diversity may seem like a modern-day triumph particularly compared to the lack of it in many of the haute couture shows earlier that week, this is nothing new for Mugler.
Manfred Thierry Mugler was an openly gay fashion designer and creator of the Mugler fashion house. His shows and collections in the 80s and 90s drew direct inspiration from, and worked with, people from gay and drag communities in New York. Connie ‘Girl’ Fleming, bouncer turned trans model superstar, walked in Mugler’s SS92 collection in a bejewelled and glitzy red cowgirl look. LYPSINKA, aka John Epperson, was the drag queen that created lip sync as a part of drag performances. She performed for Mugler several times, including for an AIDS benefit show.
Mugler had many muses that did not fit the stereotypical model mould, they became the inspiration and driving force behind the brand’s creativity and revolutionary contribution to fashion. His shows were about high performance; fashion pieces were characters, stories, and art. The shows had real a playfulness and humour to them.
In 2017 Casey Cadwallader became the house’s new creative director. In an interview with Vogue, when he was first appointed, Cadwallader spoke about his intentions and vision for the brand. His ideas were focused on the women that they worked with and how to empower them in a 21st-century setting. When asked about whether the brand would see the camp theatrics and Hollywood-esque figures of shows past, Cadwallader expressed his admiration for it, but at the time said he was focused on building up an identity for the brand. He said, “I feel I’ve got more immediate things to focus on- to build the business,” He expressed that fashion would come first and the “humour will come later.”
It seems in the past five years Cadwallader has done just that. This 2023 show is a return to some of the humour and theatrics in a distinctly 21st-century way.
The show saw models like Arca dancing on a moving platform with a camera attached and grabbing her bag from an audience member in the show. Other models like Dominque strutted playfully, dancing down the runway. One of the models had a kind of electronic arm attached to her. The show was high drama and theatrics, but dark and boudoir-esque. The integration of technology and fashion is certainly a theme that will play out more in 2020’s fashion.
The visual creations meant that stunning short videos were created of the models ‘shutting down’ the runway, inviting people on social media to feel a part of the buzz and electricity of the show.
As the show’s debut was close to the anniversary of Manfred Thierry Mugler’s death, it seems the house has really re-embodied his spirit and grown more comfortable in its exuberant personality, celebrating the legend and inclusivity that is Mugler.
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