His fashion-world friends tell Thierry Mugler that he isn't serious anymore. And they have their reasons. Lately, Mugler admits: "I've been more interested in film and theater than in ready-to-wear design."
The world-famous French fashion designer has just finished his first film, a love story set on a rooftop in Paris. He wrote, costumed and directed it.
And he recently designed theater costumes for a Comedie Francaise production of "MacBeth" to open in Paris next November. (His Lady MacBeth is a "suburban housewife," he says, who wears a little blue housedress that peels down to a vampy bodysuit in her wicked moments.)
Mugler passed through Los Angeles recently on his way back from China where he had worked on yet another project. He is visiting rooftops around the world, he explains, taking fashion photographs for a book he will publish next spring.
His aren't the sort of pictures you expect to see in fashion magazines. The clothes are tiny specks set against the monumental roof lines of the Paris Opera House, Mao Tse-tung's mausoleum in China, the Sargrada Familia church in Barcelona, and the turquoise-colored Pellissier building on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. (He's still trying to set something up on the roof of the Mormon Temple on Santa Monica Boulevard, but permission has not yet come through.)
"Fashion and architecture go together," Mugler says. "There's a poetic life to the shape of clothes and to the tops of buildings, too. You're in the city but you're in the clouds."
There has always been a poetic life to Mugler's fashion designs. Space mermaids, sex goddesses and glamour girls from Venus to Evita have been inspirations for his ready-to-wear clothes in the past few years, he explains. And lately he's been captivated by psychedelic-color, fake fur mini-coats, Pucci-inspired prints, hip-hugger bell-bottom trousers, crop tops and other relics of the beach-blanket-bingo era.
If he is leaning away from his original vocation these days, he explains, it's because "fashion isn't art anymore, it's commerce. It can be a way of death for a designer. If you're a big-business designer you work on your image for a living. I don't want to get my juices going that way."
He will continue to design ready-to-wear, but in a more simplified vein, he says. For fall, it will be "basic, unisex looks in very aggressive shapes, with big shoulders."
But what appears, at first glance, to be Mugler's withdrawal from fashion, turns out to be his deeper commitment to it. He has decided to go into haute couture, he says, and will present his first collection next spring. He sees couture as an opportunity to continue to make clothes that tell stories. "I am really a director more than anything else," he says. "My function is to make people dream, in any way that I can. "
Mugler's designs are available at Neiman-Marcus.