Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. Mugler AW23

Back in the 80s and 90s, nobody did a (fashion) show like Thierry Mugler. In 2023, Mugler, the brand, lead by Casey Cadwallader, delivers an equal level of showmanship. “We’re showing during couture week because we’re bad. At Mugler we do whatever we want,” the designer stated before the choreographed mayhem kicked off. “We’re quite an outlier in the way we do things,” he added. What went down: a runway frenzy that idolized the talents and bodies of models and friends of the house simultaneously merged with live-captured dolly footage of said models and friends, which was consumed on a vast screen erected at the top of a set of stairs. And all over the internet, obviously. Crews of men on movie dollies slid on tracks filming the wildly whooped-at cast: Arca, Ziwe, Mariacarla Boscono, Shalom Harlow, Eva Herzigova, just to name few. There was hair swishing galore. A synchronized handbag-swinging lace-bodysuited dance troupe occupied some center steps. Then one by one, each Mugler supermodel climbed aboard another dolly, on which they could pose around a pole for the return journey. This second crew had a low-down camera which zoomed up crotch-wards, deploying a technique which might be termed up-skirting – had there been any skirts in evidence. Magnified on the monolithic screen, these oooh-aaah fragments were flashed in a live-streamed mix. What about the fashion content? Categorizing it as a collection of leather and lace doesn’t quite cover it. One thing to be said: Whether manifesting as baggy-topped leather chaps suspended under a hip-grazing heavy-duty chrome-zippered bodysuit, or a bisected one-leg, one-sleeve motorcycle suit, or indeed anything Cadwallader did with stretch black lace – it all miraculously stayed in place. And that is quite a technical achievement. It’s tricky to compare Cadwallader’s Mugler with Manfred Thierry Mugler’s original haute couture extravaganzas. In 2023, as far as being inclusive to bodies and identities, Cadwallader for sure outdoes the master. But Mugler was the outlier in his time: the man who foresaw fashion shows as cinematic spectacles. It’s a great continuation of the legacy.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Love Yourself. Mugler SS22

For spring-summer 2022, Casey Cadwallader reunited with Torso Solutions for the final installment of a trilogy of Mugler fashion films. Filmed in Los Angeles, the mind-bending video features a variety of vignettes that blend trippy glitches with the Mugler fierceness. There’s Megan Thee Stallion on a billboard; Chloë Sevigny doing a dip and turning into Barbie Swaee; Shalom Harlow and Amber Valletta sharing a kiss; and two Bella Hadids. He also recently co-directed a music video for Megan and dressed Sevigny for her wedding after-party, both of which came about, he says, after working on this video. Four years on, Cadwallader has settled in. “In the beginning I was very serious and worried about everything, but there’s this need to be irreverent with Mugler,” he says. He’s leaning into that irreverence, and the video captures it by balancing irony and seriousness in a URL-era continuation of the shows Mr. Mugler put on. Less runway, more performance.

The collection is a strong exploration of his signature elements. Ombre body-con dresses suspended from sculpted collars referencing a 1998 haute couture dress feel fresh and directional. The denim is sharper and more aligned with Cadwallader’s shapewear, partly due to the transparency of the house’s “illusion tulle.” The fabric is a riff on Mr. Mugler’s segmented tailoring, which he made with fishing line. It has replaced Lycra in the denim and is being applied to the bodysuits. “This is the most bare collection I’ve done,” Cadwallader said with a laugh. “After this I’m going to dial it in a little bit.” A tied tailored jacket stands out. It can be worn criss-crossed or with the lapels pulled apart, as styled on Dominique Jackson. Versatility is something he makes a point of. “Not only is there a variety of people in the world, but there’s a variety within each person,” he said. “One can feel like they want to flaunt themselves at 10 p.m. and feel conservative at 10 a.m., or feel masculine at 10 a.m. and feminine at 10 p.m. I want to make clothes that can serve that.” The bareness might make his clothes feel niche, as if they were made exclusively for the stages they’re often seen on, but it’s this what makes them special. Who doesn’t want to feel like a pop star, at least part of the time? In today’s saturated market, niche is a great place to be. Cadwallader said he’s aware of the critique that “things look the same” in his collections. “But that’s what a signature is!” he said, laughing. “Everything is evolving over time and eventually we’ll work into more things.” As to what those will be, only he knows, but he said he’s “ready for some volume.” Also, he’s already thinking about his next video. “At a show you have, say, 500 people, but these videos…10 million people see them.” Social media has become key for fashion conversations, and with this format Mugler has leveled show-going editors and at-home spectators. “There’s this entertainment value and joy-giving to people that I don’t want to give up on. I feel a commitment to that now, so to bring it back to a closed room and keep people out is not an option for me.”

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.


Oh, So Hot! Mugler AW21

It’s getting sultry hot in here! Casey Cadwallader, the young American designer, has reignited the Mugler flame since his arrival at the label in 2018 by adapting the brand’s curvy, body-con aesthetic for the athleisure generation. Where Mugler’s corsets were rigid – his iconic 1992 motorcycle-chassis corset was made from plastic, metal, and Plexiglas – Cadwallader’s are built with two-way stretch. “You can tie your shoes, sit in a taxi, you can breathe,” he said in a preview of the autumn-winter 2021 collection. Material innovation and an embrace of extremes are essential to Mugler’s current success. There’s a pair of ass-less pants in the new lineup, but Cadwallader indicated that he might not have designed them if customers weren’t already wearing the part-sheer, part-opaque (read: mostly sheer) tights he’s been making for the last couple of seasons “without clothing.” The news at Mugler this time around is how he’s evolving his hyper-sexy vibe. In previous collections he’s leaned on black, but here he played with stretchy knit color-block layers to great effect, mixing emerald, ultramarine, bordeaux, and bright orange in one look and highlighter yellow, navy, and orange in another. His other experiment was born from a vintage Mugler bauble with a spray of flexible gold snake chains that he found at a flea market. “I loved how the chains moved,” he said. “I was looking for movement this season.” He sourced modern versions of the chains and made body jewelry from them. Bella Hadid models an intricate necklace top with a bodysuit in the brand’s new video, though Cadwallader’s fans are just as likely to wear it solo.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Cosmic Goddess Power. Mugler SS21 (2)

Cosmic goddess power hits the Earth – that’s how one might discover Casey Cadwallader‘s brilliant Mugler collection for spring-summer 2021 (part 2). “It’s important to do the jaw-dropping scandalous stuff; that’s what this house is built on. But it’s also about trying to address an interesting day-to-day wardrobe too,” Cadwallader said. Well, about as “day” as Mugler will ever get. “A lot of young people want to buy Mugler now. I’m trying to do the right thing for the right price,” he explained, pointing to expressive pieces made from recycled Lycra that won’t empty that demographic’s wallets. He’s also thinking a lot about how to elevate sportswear; combining sport with lingerie. Take, for example, the graphic, gravity-defying top that Bella Hadid wears, the one that looks like it’s supported on nothing more than a wing and a prayer, but is in fact a smart combination of fabric technology and illusion. It’s made from a super-stretchy mesh that not only sculpts and smooths the body but also completely disappears against any skin tone. “The idea of shape-wear is built into these garments; there is a lot of attention on fabric technology,” Cadwallader said. “For me, all bodies need to be designed for, not just skinny bodies, although, even skinny bodies sometimes have a bigger butt or boobs and…the clothes help you out with that instead of making you feel bad for having them. I’m celebrating different body shapes.” Cadwallader is having fun making these videos, too. “Should a hyper-charged Hunter Schafer jump off a box onto the runway to drum and bass music? Yes!” he exclaims, of his nine-minute film directed by Torso Solutions, which also stars Kembra Pfahler, Alek Wek, and Dominique Jackson. “I’ve always wanted models to break into dance on the runway or to do something, but when it’s a live show it’s very risky. The runway can be intense and scary, and the audience is often exhausted, but when you’re doing a film you can mess around, play, and edit.” Like deciding to “rewind” and present the whole show backwards, as he does here. The best news? Having just moved the house to a see-now-buy-now model, it’s all available to buy right now.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

God Is A Woman. Mugler SS21 (1)

God is a woman, and she’s wearing Mugler. Casey Cadwallader‘s vision for the brand is empowering, inclusive and boldly feminine. That’s again demonstrated in his spring-summer 2021 collection, which wasn’t presented during Paris Fashion Week, but as an off-the-schedule sci-fi video starring Bella Hadid and friends of the label. Cadwallader pointed out the increasing importance of music videos in the absence of live performances. He’s working on clothes for those apparently, too – just think Miley Cyrus, Cardi B and Caroline Polachek! In fact, about half of his time is spent on VIP requests. The other 50% he expends on the label’s ready-to-wear, but he’s not exactly playing it safe with this category either. “I felt it was time to deal with the fantasy side of Mugler,” he said, referring to the house founder’s infamous collections of the 1990s. There’s the hyper-sexy clothes, and then there’s the way he’s going about making them. Cadwallader is putting a lot of effort into sourcing more sustainable materials. He says those bodystockings will be constructed with 100% recycled lycra by autumn 2021. And he’s also working at lowering the prices of pieces like the twisting-seam jeans he designed for his first Mugler collection two years ago and the Lycra and illusion tulle leggings and tops that he likens to “complex puzzles” of couture pattern-making. “There’s energy in young people that want to buy Mugler,” he said. That jibes with the trend toward body-conscious – and body-positive! – collections we saw this season at brands like Fendi and Eckhaus Latta. Also, what’s new – Mugler is moving to a see-now-buy-now model starting in February. This capsule collection is a “prelude” of that outing. Many brands failed with this business-mode, but who knows, a brand like Mugler might really pull it off.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.