Casey Cadwallader's first collection for the fashion house

Mugler is a label known for its strong and visionary creations, and for having dressed the likes of Beyoncé and Demi Moore. An aesthetic that has always been inspired by feminine empowerment and the idea of ​​transformation. And with a new creative director, Casey Cadwallader, the maison, born 44 years ago, is redefined for a new generation of power women

In the northwest outskirts of Barcelona, ​​the architect Ricardo Bofill's studio stands out like the Tower of Babel, surrounded by olive and cypress trees. La Fábrica, a space made out of a disused cement factory, is a place where Escher-style staircases lead nowhere, huge rusted metal beams stand out among rough concrete walls, while the roofs are covered with verdant grass.

And it is here that in a mild Sunday in April Vogue met the new artistic director of Mugler, Casey Cadwallader. Although not a well-known name, it is highly likely that you have worn his creations. Until today, the American designer was, in fact, mostly behind the scenes, working for TSE, Loewe and J. Mendel, before becoming design director for the ready-to-wear and accessories for women by Narciso Rodriguez , and then always as a design director for the pre-collections of Acne Studios . Cadwallader's ability, as he himself says, to "transform through the lens of a brand" will be an invaluable resource for Mugler, who has lost some of his momentum in recent years.

Founded in 1974 by Thierry Mugler, the French maison was the first to launch a new hourglass silhouette, angular, sexy and aggressive, obtained with padding on the curves of the body and tightening the waist - which became representative of the eighties and early years Ninety. Mugler is the creator of the little black dress that Demi Moore wore in Indecente Proposal, Diana Ross and her daughter Tracee Ellis marched for him and in 1992 he directed and created costumes for a video that marked an era, that for the hit of George Michael Too Funky, starring Linda Evangelista, Eva Herzigova and Tyra Banks. His creations have turned women into queens of ice, super-heroines and even motorcycles, all ideas that Mugler had, as it is known, revisited in 2009 when he was a creative consultant and costume designer for the world tour "I Am ..." of Beyoncé. (The outfits will be exhibited in February at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for the Thierry Mugler exhibition : Creatures of Haute Couture .)

Despite the success and the enormous prestige, Clarins - owner of Mugler since 1997 - in 2003 he was forced to close the doors of the house due to major financial losses, but the pret-à-porter line was re-launched seven years later with Nicola Ants that had created a stir because of his friendship with Lady Gaga. His successor, David Koma, had created beautiful garments worn by stars like Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, but the brand seemed far from repeating the great successes of the past.

We spent two days with Cadwallader while the stylist was busy taking pictures of his first collection, worn by very different women. Putting together people like Jess Cole, a degree in literature, who signed an attractive exclusive contract with C é line in his first season; the musician 070 Shake; the French Olympic swimmer Anna Santamans; the actress Anna Brewster; and the iconic muses of Mugler, Amy Wesson and Debra Shaw, the designer wants to "stimulate a debate on the meaning of modern femininity and its power". The shots, realized by Arnaud Lajeunie, will be previewed in a private penthouse in Tribeca, New York, next Wednesday, when guests can also see the exclusive dresses.

"This project really wants to bring the variety from Mugler. In recent times, she only created evening dresses, and she wore only elegant women, models and actresses that were beautiful for the red carpet, "explains the 38-year-old designer, while arranging the collar of a black leather biker jacket on Jess Cole. The over belt with buckle and the important shoulders are clear references to the original Mugler style, but softer and softer: the sleeve lap falls gently on the arm without forming a rigid corner like a time, and even the material is only slightly shiny, and not lacquered, to the point of looking like a fetish garment.

Later, Cole changed and wore a trench coat created in collaboration with the artist Samara Scott. A bizarre mix of ingredients are trapped between the two layers of transparent vinyl with which the trench has been made, from hair gel to curry powder to toothpaste. When the trench is held open against the light, it is an object of an ethereal beauty reminiscent of a butterfly in the sun, winking subliminally at the cousure collection SS 1997 by Mugler.

There is a certain similarity between the way Cadwallader, who lives in Paris but was born in New Hampshire and took a degree in architecture from Cornell University, chose to approach the world of Mugler and the one in which Bofill reconverted the cement plant, that is demolishing part of its structure to reveal hidden forms. Instead of eradicating Mugler's philosophy, Cadwallader "breaks down the walls of the brand" to extend the aesthetic language to the woman of the 21st century. "When I studied Thierry Mugler's archives, I saw that he created sportswear , swimsuits, transformed women into creatures, he used dancers and performance artists and musicians for his shows, there was a real movement around he "says Cadwallader enthusiastically. "For me, female empowerment at that time consisted of wearing suit with important shoulders to stand up to the men in the office and also to attract their gaze. [While today] women always dress to get power, but they do it for themselves. This is the substantial difference. Not to be accepted by men, but to remain true to themselves, and feel how powerful that feeling of security is, to be able to choose their own future. "

The following day in a summer residence designed by Bofill, attention to the structure and form of Cadwallader come to light. Shaw, one of the first muses of Mugler, is extraordinarily elegant standing next to the red-tiled pool wearing a knitted dress and an earcuff by Marco Panconesi for Mugler that releases white crystals that look like sparks of fireworks. Meanwhile, 070 Shake changes and wears a denim outfit composed of hypnotizing spiral stitches assembled with maniacal care that seem to have neither beginning nor end. But perhaps one of the garments that show a more evident reference to the brand's past (sold by Net-a-Porter, Bergdorf Goodman and in the Parisian store of Mugler since August) is a fully lined jacket in canvas that is based on a male model from Mugler's archives, in green-blue and black colors. The cut of the jacket has been adapted to the female forms and finished with laces so that "any woman, whatever size she wears, can adjust them to define the waist," explains Cadwallader.

His models are certainly not devoid of ingenious or crafted constructions, and although Cadwallader considers his first corpus an "experiment" - he only had seven weeks to design the collection after receiving the commission in December - the collection, which includes thirty leaders, is a coherent celebration of individuality. For the future, the designer plans to present collections in the fashion calendar but instead of investing money in a fashion show, Cadwallader intends to continue organizing special events or presentations.

But how does it feel to wear a Cadwallader piece for Mugler compared to Thierry Mugler's originals? No one can respond better than the women who inspired both designers. "A Mugler suit made you feel strong even if you were not. It was like having a special power, you wore that dress and you felt powerful, "Shaw says to dinner that night. He takes out his cell phone and shows me a picture on the catwalk next to Amy Wesson at Mugler's AI 1998 couture show.

Today's shooting is the first time they've been working together since that time, he says. "Casey managed to capture that same spirit," he adds. "Doing this and staying within your creative space is brilliant. One senses a bit of the 'old' Mugler but it is an evolution that speaks of today. The perfect example of how [Thierry] himself would have kept up with the times "

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