Eye On Design: Thierry Mugler, Machinenmensch Robot Suit

machinenmensch by thierry mugler photo by gail worley
All Photos By Gail

Thierry Mugler took his inspiration from comic-book heroines and science-fiction, from uniforms and medieval armor, from industrial design and futuristic vehicles. The aerodynamic and robot-style looks he invented are now iconic. At the frontiers of reality, his automotive bodywork-clad creatures and cyborgs foreshadow today’s transhumanist endeavors in which body parts can actually be replaced by man-made equivalents.

body armor cat suit detail photo by gail worley

Mugler collaborated artist Jean-Jacques Urcun to develop novel techniques to create what appeared to be magnificent robot creatures seemingly poured into chrome bustiers and Plexiglass cat suits. His all-time masterpiece is the Machinenmensch, first presented in 1995 at a fashion show for the 20th century anniversary of his label. A tribute to the character Futura from the dystopian novel Metropolis (1925) by Thea von Harbou (and its 1927 film), the outfit required six months of intensive work.

machinenmensch rear view photo by gail Worley
Mmachinenmensch, Rear View

A crab’s shell inspired the joints and movement of this robotic body. As it lacks any sort of inner apparatus, a series of yolks, attached by leather and rubber strips, follows every gesture. A plastic internal framework facilitates movement of the various pieces making up this armor over the skin, while also limiting the amount of pinching inflicted on the person wearing it.

In the 1995 fashion show, the model wore a large hat and a purple duchesse  satin evening coat. She performed a striptease on the runway, first revealing a see-through, black chiffon gown, tied at the waist, and then her body clad in molded metal and Plexiglass to evoke a robot. The final appearance adopts the image of  Futura , who was renamed Maria and played by the actress Brigitte Helm in the 1927 adaptation by pioneering film, Director Fritz Lang, the author’s husband.

machinenmensch by thierry mugler photo by gail worley

Photographed in the Brooklyn Museum as Part of The Exhibit Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, On View Through May 7th, 2023.

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