Fashion Remembers Manfred Thierry Mugler, Legendary Designer Who Has Died at 73

Thierry Mugler walks the finale of his runway show surrounded by models.
Photo by Daniel SIMON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Manfred Thierry Mugler, the French fashion legend who was equal parts designer, couturier, and showman, has died at age 73. His team announced the news on Instagram on Sunday without mention of the cause of death. A master couturier and longtime perfumer, Mugler was behind some of the most over-the-top, and often otherworldly, moments in fashion history. He was also a force in the music industry, costuming Grace Jones, David Bowie, Beyoncé, and Diana Ross over the course of his decades-long career. The news of his death comes just days after the death of another fashion legend, André Leon Talley, also at age 73.

Born in Strasbourg, France in 1948, Mugler pursued classical dance before shifting his focus to fashion in the early 1970s. After moving to Paris at age 24, he launched his eponymous label in 1973; four years and an early campaign by Helmut Newton later, he opened his first boutique. His exaggerated broad-shoulder silhouettes, love of sci-fi fashion, and throwbacks to the glamours ‘40s and ‘50s quickly made him one of the biggest names on the scene, though that isn’t all that made his shows the hottest tickets in town. Mugler’s approach to the runway was akin to theater. His 20th-anniversary show in 1995 was one of the most memorable fashion shows in history: It featured more than 300 looks, worn by a parade of supermodels, club kids, and icons, including Tippi Hedren, to the tune of a live performance from James Brown.

At the same time, Mugler made waves with his perfume Angel—which went on to become one of the best-selling fragrances of the 20th century—and frequent embraces of queer iconography. “The outwardness of designers embracing being gay wasn’t then a thing,” editor and stylist Paul Cavaco told the New York Times. “People knew but you didn’t really talk about it. It was considered not chic. And here he was sending drag queens like Lypsinka down the runway.”

Mugler retired in 2002, and after a series of financial losses, the French cosmetics company Clarins shuttered his label’s ready-to-wear division the following year. Still, Mugler remained a towering force in fashion, and found a second calling as Beyoncé’s touring artistic director in 2009. Soon after, he developed a passion for body building, prompting the Times—who at that point had adopted the first named Manfred—as a “240-pound spectacle of muscle and nipple and tattoo.” He never fully turned his back on designing; Kim Kardashian brought him out of semi-retirement in 2019 to design her Met Gala ensemble, and again in 2021 to outfit her for Halloween. As his bodysuits became something of a uniform for pop stars, Mugler’s legacy got its due with a career-spanning blockbuster exhibition, “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime.”

Immediately after news broke of Mugler’s death, Beyoncé dedicated her website’s homepage to the late designer, complete with a collage of more than two dozen images of herself wearing his designs. She was hardly alone in paying tribute. Read on for remembrances from Tracee Ellis Ross, who recalled walking for Mugler at 18 in the early ‘90s, to Marc Jacobs, who recalled the 1980 Mugler show he described as a “major life changer,” here.