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Thierry Mugler: Couturissime features some 150 outfits – most restored and exhibited for the first time – produced between 1977 and 2014, in addition to accessories, theatre costumes, videos, film clips, videos, archives and unpublished sketches. It also presents a hundred rare prints by the greatest fashion photographers and artists, including Max Abadian, Lillian Bassman, Guy Bourdin, Jean-Paul Goude, Karl Lagerfeld, Dominique Issermann, David LaChapelle, Luigi & Iango, Alix Malka, Steven Meisel, Mert & Marcus, Sarah Moon, Pierre et Gilles, Paolo Roversi, Herb Ritts, and Ellen von Unwerth. An entire gallery is dedicated to the collaboration between the couturier and photographer Helmut Newton. The exhibition also features a rotation of 16 of the costumes designed by Mugler for La Tragédie de Macbeth, shown here for the first time since the 1985 Comédie-Française production at the Festival d’Avignon. 

Manfred Thierry Mugler revived French haute couture, at a time when it was competing with New York cool and Milanese expertise. He created an architectural style and bold silhouettes imbued with fantasy. His severe suits with superheroine shoulders and corseted waists clothe a woman who is sublimated, powerful and sensual. Mugler experiments with avant-garde techniques and materials – glass, plexiglass, PVC, faux fur, vinyl, latex, chrome – in his high-tech, “industrial couture” atelier-labs. His creations evoke by turns Hollywood glamour, dreams, fauna, eroticism and science fiction. 

The couturier has been involved in numerous collaborations, working in particular with interior designer Andrée Putman for his boutiques. His creations have been photographed by the greats: Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, Ellen von Unwerth, Lillian Bassman, Herb Ritts, David LaChapelle, Pierre et Gilles, Sarah Moon, etc. Mugler directed the iconic “Too Funky” music video with singer George Michael, as well as short films with actresses Isabelle Huppert and Juliette Binoche. He was the first to stage fashion shows – the most spectacular of the period – with the generation of supermodels. He created the costumes for Shakespeare’s Macbeth for the Comédie-Française, and those of Zumanity for the Cirque du Soleil. He also has directed several musical revues such as The Wyld, at Friedrichstadt-Palast in Berlin. He has dressed a myriad of celebrities, including Diana Ross, David Bowie, Lady Gaga, Liza Minnelli, Diane Dufresne, Celine Dion, and Beyoncé. 

Vue de l’exposition Thierry Mugler : Couturissime. Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. Photo © Nicolas Ruel

Jérémie Beaulieu