On Wednesday, Mugler released a video for its spring 2022 collection, the final installment in a trilogy of high-octane, super-sexy fashion films directed by Torso Solutions.
Even in today’s crowded social media marketplace, jaded by months of digital shows, this one provoked a reaction that could best be described as either enthusiastic or overwrought, depending on your point of view. Either way, it was impossible to ignore — at least for The Times’s fashion team. Below, a conversation. Join us in the comments, we’d love to know what you thought — and also your theories on how those “pockets” were actually attached.
Guy Trebay Fran Lebowitz came to mind yesterday, when my social media blew up with the new viral Mugler video. Back in 1987 Fran noted, in the context of the tragic losses to AIDS, that “if you removed all of the homosexuals and homosexual influence from what is generally regarded as American culture you would be pretty much left with ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’”
Her remark echoed as I watched and rewatched the video, which features fetish wear, girl-on-girl, the “Pose” star Dominique Jackson vogueing death drops and Chloë Sevigny, the patron saint of gay designers. What do you think?
Jessica Testa Not to mention that Casey Cadwallader, Mugler’s creative director, has christened one of his new designs the Hoochie dress, according to collection notes accompanying the video. It reminded me that we’ve seen so much bondage fashion on the runways lately — the gimp suits and harnesses and strappy corsets and latex everything — that dominatrix style fails to shock or move me anymore. When a minidress or bodysuit is slashed all over with cutouts, the very concept of a cutout loses all meaning!
Vanessa Friedman Well, there does seem to be a latent desire among an astonishing number of viewers to embrace the idea of fetish fashion — apparently Mr. Cadwallader has tapped into the secret dominatrix desires not just of his all-star cast, who look as if they are having a ball camping it up while flashing various body bits and writhing on cars (hello, Lourdes Leon), but of the rest of the watching population.
My question is, fun as it may be to see Megan Thee Stallion slapping her butt cheeks and strutting in peekaboo denim, are the excited hordes actually going to be wearing this? Or is it more a case of those who can’t buy, watch? (Or maybe of adding some D.I.Y. cutouts on clothes they already have.)
JT The thing about runway dominatrix style is we’ve barely seen it trickle down to the masses in a real wearable-outside-the-club way.
VF Jess, I dare you to wear a pair of peekaboo butt cheek pants. Or one of those cut-to-the-waist, multistrap bodysuit corsets.
That said, this is a moment of extremes: political, social, artistic. So maybe this is simply a fashion reflection of “on one side Birkenstocks, on the other bondage.”
GT I think we’re being puritanical. Swiping from the B.D.S.M. community is one of the oldest tricks in the fashion book. It’s not shocking. Neither, to judge from the booming online communities devoted to one kink or another, is widespread enjoyment of this kind of play. I only wish that, from time to time, designers would rope in (pun intended) some of the originators, like the brilliant leatherwear designer David Samuel Menkes. He’d be able to tell you what to put in the back pocket of one of those Megan Thee Stallion get-ups.
VF Speaking of pockets, do either of you understand how the ones that appear to be stuck straight onto the skin of the posterior work?
GT Krazy Glue?
JT Extremely durable body tape?
VF It might be illusion fabric. (We only think we’re seeing skin.) Which is maybe a metaphor for the appeal of this fashion overall.
GT To be honest, I’d love to see how this translates to the club and the streets.
JT The video also shares some DNA with the star-studded mega-produced Savage x Fenty shows Rihanna has been releasing with Amazon. Both feature Bella Hadid wearing very little clothing, for example. Do we think Shalom Harlow and Amber Valletta were union-approved to operate camera equipment? Did Chloë Sevigny, dropping to the street and whipping her very long ponytail, do her own stunts? Really, I do think the celebrity cast is the reason the video got so much attention. There have been a lot of fashion films released in the last two years, but few to inspire this kind of reaction.
GT Chloë’s been doing her own stunts for years, LOL. I imagine that was not the actual Chloë. But, again, the reference to the acrobatics at a vogueing ball was unmissable. They don’t call them death drops for nothing.
VF I actually found the tribute at the end of the video, which featured the ballet dancer Maria Kochetkova in a sparkling dress from 1988 with a sort of plexiglass harness designed by Manfred Thierry Mugler himself, mixing it up with Barbie Swaee, the most striking part of the film. It was eerie and nostalgic in an interesting way — and more provocative than the more overtly provocative looks. And it was a reminder of all the ideas and cultural crossovers Mugler-the-original, who died in January, actually gave us. He was a precursor to Alexander McQueen’s bondage styles and, arguably, the current Balenciaga craze for masking. He influenced contemporary fashion more than we often realize.
GT I love the throwback quality you’re referring to. Let’s not forget that Mugler shows were Vegas spectacles. He threw in the kitchen sink and then added showgirls. I mean, he did design the costumes for Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity.” There was always a communitarian feeling, something that has by and large been lost to an increasingly corporatized industry. The direct reference was bracing if you recall the history.
JT That hooped plexiglass strap — “sculpted Perspex hardware,” the brand said, if you’re wondering — was my favorite element of the whole collection.
VF Bring back the sculpted Perspex hardware! It’s better than a whip any day.
GT Precisely. It was fashion. And fashion is more than clothes.