The house of Mugler has seemingly always been about commanding fashion’s spectacle. Before Manfred Thierry Mugler exited his eponymous house in 2003, he established a vision of fashion, the human body, and the runway as a medium for spectacular displays of performance. From Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista vying for the camera on the runway in plastic beehive wigs to the iconic motorcycle corset swaying down the runway in George Michael’s “Too Funky” music video, Mugler’s use of theatrics alongside whimsical garments elevated the house to legend status and ultimately, transcended his work beyond the runway and into pop culture. “Working at Mugler, the idea of a show being a spectacle was his forte. He was such a stageman,” said Mugler’s current Creative Director Casey Cadwallader from his office in Paris. “And in a way, this is my sort of stripped down version of that,”
Since his appointment as creative director of the house in 2017, Cadwallader has worked to reestablish the house’s roots in celebrity influence and pop culture adapting Mr. Mugler’s vision of fashion and performance for a new generation. “My plan was I wanted to get Mugler back on stage and on the red carpet, in music videos, and on performers because there has always been this connection with choreography, performance, and pop culture at the brand,” he said. “It’s really important for trying to relaunch a brand that you can get the fact that there’s something new happening back out there.” From the custom designs in Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s sexed-up “WAP” music video to Kylie Jenner’s cobra Halloween costume, Cadwallader has created a number of viral moments from VIP requests that have regained Mugler’s place in the spotlight. Cadwallader compares dressing his clients to the task of dressing a bride for her wedding day – “I think of it as a couture house in the way that these are my clients, I take care of them, I care about their performance as much as they do.”
Cadwallader has split his time between VIP requests and ready-to-wear where he’s come into his own expressing what it means to be his own showman for the house. Mugler’s Spring/Summer 2021 video presentation turned the fashion world on its head with an adrenaline-pumping display of special effects, thumping beats, and gravity-defying models that harnessed the digital sphere of runway in a whole new way. “I just felt very much like I had just done something for the first time really enjoyed it, had so much fun on set, had so much fun editing it, and was able to do something different — and for me, Mugler is all about being different,” said Cadwallader.
It was clear, after Cadwallader’s artistic experiment was met with overwhelming positive response from fans, going back to a traditional runway format post-pandemic wasn’t in the cards for the house of Mugler. “I wanted to do the second runway show as a film as well and see where this one takes us,” said Cadwallader ahead of his Fall/Winter 2021 presentation. “There was just this big part of me that was like, I cannot go back to doing a regular show, I would need people to jump out of cakes or something. You can’t do those things live very easily, but in a video, you can do whatever you want.”
Mugler’s Fall/Winter 2021 show directed by Torso exceeds the house’s caliber of entertainment, yet beyond just entertainment, it’s a work meant to captivate its audience whole heartedly. The video takes the viewer out of their bystander seat and places them at the center of the runway. In the same way that Cadwallader tailors the way the collection’s flou skirts gracefully fall down the lower back or how a gilded snake chain drapes over a model’s chest, this season he additionally tailors the viewer’s eye exactly where he wants it to go breaking the fourth wall. The audience borrows the designer’s perspective as the camera slowly pans from swaying hips clad in Mugler leather chaps to Amber Valletta’s coquettish smile controlling the way viewers interact with the garments, their composition, and with the house of Mugler as a whole. Cadwallader’s latest collection picks apart the traditional runway format where audience members crane their necks to attempt to get the perfect view.
Though a star-studded casting by the likes of Bella Hadid, Dominique Jackson, Lourdes Leon, and more grab your initial attention, the true star of the show is the dynamic way in which Cadwallader presents his creations this season. “It’s hard when you have a beautiful chain detail on the back of the jacket and the runway show picture is a picture of the front. Yes, certain people in the audience see it and appreciate it. But you lose a lot of things, this is about bringing it all to the audience,” he said. However, the engaging elements of the film are intentional, Cadwallader wants Mugler to be a house where everyone is welcome and feels included. “Mugler is about community,” said Cadwallader. “It’s about a shared feeling of togetherness and appreciation for one another. But one thing that all Mugler family and friends have in common is that they’re people who are very confident and feel very empowered.” Today, bringing the model’s personality forward in his presentations is key for Cadwallader. “It’s what makes it feel like it has the guts instead of it just being pretty,” he said.
The collection’s garments demonstrate Cadwallader’s idea of effortless sensuality that he has instilled into his tenure at Mugler. Second skin garments remain a constant for the house in new forms. The Mugler bodysuit that has become synonymous with the house is imagined in new materials from a star-patterned mesh to recycled lycra in reflective midnight blue, pink, and silver appearing like liquid on the skin. “I think that’s what makes them so magical is that they kind of look effortless, but they are really built to be very specific. And I think the reason that they’re so popular is because you look like you’re wearing nothing on a certain level, but you’re also covered to your toes,” he said. “It’s different from hosiery because there are seams in strategic places that make it either tighter or looser in different zones. So it’s more couture in the way that it’s cut.” Elsewhere, Cadwallader’s fascination with construction is materialized in the form of deconstructed rah-rah skirts, paneled denim, cut-out peak lapel blazers in cavalry twill, and cut-out calf boots in collaboration with Jimmy Choo. The see-now-buy-now collection caters to Mugler’s new Gen Z audience directly connecting with their customer and pushing Mugler further to the forefront of the modern fashion scene.
In December, Cadwallader will celebrate his fourth year as creative director under Mugler and after honing in on his creative fire and feeding it, his light has become an unbridled source of fresh new energy in the fashion world. “One thing I know is that Mr. Mugler did whatever he wanted, and I think that’s what a real creator does,” said Cadwallader. “I knew that I was really lucky to be the person designing for this house that has this legacy of being so just knock-the-doors-down bold and wild. That’s really what I’m trying to do, let it loose and really enjoy what I’m doing,” said Cadwallader.
Click through the gallery below to check out every look from Mugler Fall/Winter 2021.
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