Mugler: Marvelous?

Carine Roitfeld’s departure from French Vogue, and the subsequent appointment of  the mag’s fashion editor Emmanuelle Alt as ed-in-chief, put the question back on many people’s lips: should stylists take on the editorship of any magazine? In a blog post, Italian Vogue‘s Franca Sozzani wrote, as if in response, “Honestly, I don’t think a stylist has a vision for a magazine.” Similarly, such doubt can be cast on those stylists who take on the design responsibilities of iconic fashion houses. Nicola Formichetti is one of them.

While his debut Mugler women’s wear show was not a nail-biting wait, it was still a spine-tingling lead-up. The stylist to Lady Gaga, at Vogue Homme Japan, as well as for more accessible names such as Uniqlo, had kept the world guessing if his partner in crime Lady Gaga would take to the catwalk. Of course she did. I was not surprised that his BFF would somehow lend her presence to augment the buzz of what was considered the most anticipated show of the Paris season. The question is, did she really make a difference or were the clothes in need of a cameo act?

To be sure, Thierry Mugler, an iconic designer of the ’80s and ’90s, was going to be tough to follow and re-imagined. It did not achieve much under the previous creative director Rosemary Rodriguez, who had worked with Mr Mugler. The founding designer’s hyper-feminine silhouette is not so distant from the Victorian’s: bordering on the obsession of exaggerating the female form. In trying to underscore the house’s DNA, it would be tempting to update it for the present.

It seemed that was exactly what Mr Formichetti was trying to do. The Japanese-Italian kept much of the Mugler signatures: the pronounced shoulders, the defined waist, and the rounded hips. Shine and sheer were also not omitted. Colours were kept to the minimum. There was no embellishment to distract the viewers from the clothes’ dramatic shapes. In ‘updating’ Mugler (first with the logo that saw Thierry dropped), Mr Formichetti has perhaps created something quite unlike what was so unforgettable in the ’80s, a time when Mr Mugler did not to have to update anything except to create and innovate.

The present line’s shapely clothes, with more than a nod to the hour-glass figure, did not really create new aesthetic thrills. The not-much-known French designer Alexandre Vauthier has been pacing this Mugler silhouette for more than a couple of seasons now. And the interest in strong shoulders came and went as quickly as Christophe Dercanin introducing them at Balmain. On the catwalk, the clothes had visual value, but I am not sure if off-stage they mean anything to anyone not a stylist, Lady Gaga, or one of her groupies.

Mr Formichetti has admitted that he is not trained in fashion design. “I am not a designer,” he told Interview, “I am a creator.” Assisted by Sébastien Peigné, a designer who had worked at Balenciaga, he got away with the shortcoming by delivering a strong, consistent silhouette and pieces that automatically egg the wearer to vamp it up, a response not entirely unconnected to Mugler.

What did Lady Gaga bring to the clothes?  I don’t know. Apart from proving that she can walk in those towering shoes better than professional models and showing viewers how even pillars can be used as poles (no doubt Born this Way!), I saw nothing that was memorable.

Mr Formichetti was quoted backstage saying that Mugler “was more than fashion, though, it was entertainment.” Sure, Thierry Mugler’s shows in the 80s were theatrical and entertaining, but Mr Mugler did not make clothes for shows, he created shows with clothes.



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