Designer Thierry Mugler (1948 – 2022) believed that beauty and seduction are instinctual. His most imaginative designs took inspiration from the natural world, including a host of birds, butterflies, insects, undersea creatures, and reptiles.
A conservationist as well as an innovator, he transformed and manipulated both natural and synthetic materials to imitate unique textures and patterns only found in nature, rather than employing rare, skins or feathers, derived from the killing of (often) endangered wildlife. When presenting his designs on the runway, he felt that his personally-cast models (in this case, Yasmin Le Bon) and star performers were so attuned to nature’s rhythms and instincts that they were gifted with the ability to bring his most fantastical creations to life.
La Chimère (Fall/Winter, 1997–98) unveiled a mythical creature with jointed armor and iridescent scales embellished with crystals, feathers, and horse hair. This masterpiece, made in collaboration with renowned South African corset-maker Mr. Pearl, and the artist Jean-Jacques Urcun, required thousands of hours of work.
The La Chimère gown is considered by some to be one of the most expensive creations in couture history, given the meticulous amount of work required in its making. Mr. Pearl describes the collaboration as the most extreme experience of his life:
“[Making the gown] was probably the most intense project. It took six weeks working 24 / 7, so basically more than 1000 hours just in embroidery. We were about 20 people working on the different parts of it along with Jean Jacques. [The process is] about fantasy, it was like going to the University of Beauty. To fulfill [Mugler’s] vision and his fantasies, with clothes is already a challenge, he is a genius, a perfectionist. You have to try, and he pushes everyone to try what seems impossible to achieve with a needle.”