Mugler’s Spring/Summer 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Casey Cadwallader’s Mugler has always mined a contrarian seam. To a certain extent, it has had to: Frustrated by the original Thierry Mugler fans who long for a return to Vegas-style spectacles, perhaps without considering how the founder sat at the helm of a multimillion-dollar couture house with the resources to match, Cadwallader has forged his own provocative path toward capturing the collective imagination. This summer’s buzziest Mugler moment? Pairing a reinterpretation of Thierry’s original bee headpiece from the spring 1997 couture collection with a sculpted chrome-leather body plate of his own design for Queen B Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour.

Next up: Shifting back to the regular seasonal schedule and production cycle with a spring show that constituted something of a mini reset. The label adopted a see-now, buy-now model during the pandemic, unveiling collections during couture weeks. Now it’s business as usual, albeit one buoyed by a frenzied reaction to its H&M collaboration in May that saw Mugler megafans queuing around the block and some pieces selling out online within eight minutes. Cadwallader came away from the collaboration with several nuggets. First, that his menswear audience is far bigger than he’d ever previously imagined. Second, that’s there’s a serious clamor for his starkly sexy designs in the real world, far away from the occasionally snipy fashion press. Third, that the global visibility that comes with a H&M marketing campaign can be a springboard that takes your brand to the next level. “I think it’s interesting, because it does put you out there as, like, this big player,” he mused at a preview the day before his show. “But we’re kind of an emerging brand in a funny way. That’s how it feels when you’re inside.”

Unsurprisingly, the collaboration gave his team, which has grown from 18 when he started in 2018 to 42 today, the requisite morale boost required to keep pushing the envelope. And it seems to have given Cadwallader the confidence to approach a Thierry predilection for bestiary that he had previously avoided, for fear of the results being “too costumey.” For spring, he admitted with a chuckle, he’d channeled his love of octopuses and jellyfish into high-voltage, highly theatrical designs.

On a stripped-back, snow white runway lined with mechanical fans and bright lights, Cadwallader unleashed his aquarium. The opening look was made up of a resin body plate with exaggerated hips and a wisp of chiffon trailing behind a prowling Mariacarla Boscono. Next came some experiments with segmented tailoring that nodded to the archive: hook-and-eye closures exposing flashes of skin, tulle bases giving the illusion of floating sleeves and trouser legs, and skeleton structures of boning revealing and concealing in equal measure. Mugler’s now signature spiral-cut denim jeans and corset-waist jackets were sprayed with ombré and polka-dot patterns inspired by sea slugs; body-con dresses came with seven-meter-long trains of chiffon that rippled tentacle-like in the wind; and a series of sequined bodysuits and dresses were embellished with transparent laser-cut sequin shards that sprayed out from the body, pulsing like plankton. As the sea-monster-style, floor-sweeping, fringe-adorned tuxedo stomped its way down the runway, you couldn’t help but smile. The stellar cast included Angela Bassett, Paris Hilton, Helena Christensen, Paloma Elsesser, Anok Yai, and Fan Bingbing all giving it everything, prompting hysterical whoops from the audience.

That joyous reaction was impressive when you consider it came at the end of the penultimate day of PFW, when everyone’s feeling a little jaded. But there are a lot of shoppers who see themselves in a label that strives to be genuinely inclusive—and not just as a marketing ploy. On that note, Cadwallader wanted to set the record straight on the question of why, with his H&M linkup, he would dilute his own best-selling designs—the spiral-cut bodysuits, the body-sucking denim, the corset-pumped minidresses—and reproduce them at a lower price point. “I wanted to say, ‘I’m done with these. These have been my best things so far, but I’m going to pivot this way afterward,’” he explained. “I want it to keep leveling up—go more eveningwear, go more fluid, go more silk.” Wherever he goes, it’s clear his fan base will follow.

This article was originally published on Vogue Runway.

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