In Memoriam: Thierry Mugler (1948-2022)

This week the designer Manfred Thierry Mugler passed away at the age of 73 — a deep loss to the overlapping creative worlds of fashion and fragrance. I’m not the best-qualified person to speak about his visionary approach to fashion, although his designs certainly made a lasting first impression on me in glossy magazines and George Michael’s “Too Funky” video, in that last great decade of magazines and music videos.

However, over the past twenty years, I’ve spent lots of time with the fragrances created for his Mugler’s brand, from the truly horizon-expanding Angel and all its flankers to Alien, Aura, Womanity, and more, and I know, as dedicated fragophiles have known for a long time, that twenty-first century perfumery would not be the same without Mugler. And the bottles and advertisements for these perfumes, as well as the scents themselves, are as vibrant and striking and memorable as Mugler’s fashion…a perfect match, which is rarely the case.

Here are a few quotes about perfume from Mugler himself.

On ANGEL (1992): “From the beginning I wanted to create a gourmand fragrance, with chocolate and candy-floss. After hundreds of trials, Angel was created. A large number of today’s perfumes are its descendants. At the time, all the great perfume houses launched a new fragrance every six months, but the mythic perfumes were lacking, and so were the bottles that people yearned for. Those that marked my childhood, such as Shalimar [Jacques Guerlain] or Joy by Jean Patou, were beautiful collector’s items. Angel was a work of prowess and the result of complex research.”  (Document Journal, September 22, 2021)

On ALIEN (2005): “When creating Alien, I dreamed of a fragrance that would reveal the radiance and splendor of every woman. Rather than a fragrance of seduction, Alien is designed as a sacred talisman charged with positive energy. . . . the power of a Solar Goddess who radiates, fascinates and captivates with her benevolence, in a society questing for spirituality and new values.” (quote via Candy Perfume Boy)

On WOMANITY (2010): “There is a slightly fresher note at the beginning, one that is also more tender and a little bit more sugary. It transforms into something cooler, this slightly savoury and strange note, and ends on a woody note, a telluric impression. . . . It’s a musical fragrance, a fragrance that plays its notes according to the emotions of the wearer. This aspect is extremely rich and fascinating.” (Talking Makeup, July 18, 2020)

On AURA (2017): “It’s charged. Zzz! A charge of passion, a charge of love, a charge of work. I had this idea of paying homage to instinct, to our animal nature, to what we all have in common. . . . The idea was to find another symbol that could speak to everyone, like the Angel star. It was hard to find another. But I thought of the heart, and the idea of using the letter m like magic. And m pronounced in French is aime, meaning ‘love.'” (ELLE, October 28, 2017)

Mugler at the launch of Angel, 1992. Photograph by Eric Robert.

On the business and emotion of perfume: “Fragrance is on one side a huge business, and on another side something so fragile. You can market it as much as you want, but you never know if it’s going to be a success. It’s very human, and it touches so many intimate aspects of emotion. It’s really a language, and it speaks to people or it doesn’t. There’s something magical about that. And I love the riskiness of it.” (ELLE, October 28, 2017)

Thank you, and farewell, Monsieur Mugler.

2 comments

  1. I enjoyed reading these quotes and seeing the pictures you selected! Both point to what I liked about M. Mugler’s perfumes, which is I think he did believe in what he created and trusted it would give people enjoyment as he created it. I suspect the perfumes that become the most loved are the ones with the least exposure to focus groups. I did not like many of his aesthetic choices – for me, sensational is good in clothes but stagey is not – but the perfumes I like even if I can’t wear some of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, K! I think you’re absolutely right — and I think the people who created (and continue to create) the Mugler fragrances were given a certain creative liberty that other brands probably wouldn’t have extended. Sure, some of the flankers and colognes are a little “tamer,” but the pillar scents are all fantastically original and odd. I can’t wear all of them, either, but I like to have small amounts on hand to sniff and appreciate.

      I also remember that Angel took a while to find its audience in the US, and that kind of “slow burn” probably wouldn’t be allowed these days. I’m glad it was allowed to catch on the way it eventually did throughout the 90s and early 00s!

      Like

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