Paris Fashion Week returns to yet more mourning

The haute couture week in Paris opened under another cloud of mourning on Monday following the death of designer Thierry Mugler, the latest in a string of big-name fashion industry deaths.

Last week’s menswear shows in the French capital had already seen a highly emotional moment when Louis Vuitton presented the final collection by Virgil Abloh, who died from cancer in November at 41. 

Its previous fashion week in October included a memorial show to Alber Elbaz, the Israeli designer who died aged 59 from Covid-19 five months earlier, having only recently launched his new label AZ Factory after years at the head of Lanvin. 

This coming Sunday will see another memorial show — to Pierre Cardin — who died at 98 in December 2020. 

The latest loss is Mugler, who died suddenly on Sunday from “natural causes” at 73, according to his Facebook page. 

He was a central figure when the fashion industry was in full pomp in the 1980s and 1990s, surrounded by celebrities and supermodels, and bringing wild extravagance to the catwalk — from full-body robotic armour to the Venus oyster gown that was recently resurrected by Cardi B. 

His bold silhouettes helped define the power-dressing look of the 1980s with the inverted triangle of wide shoulders and tight hips that he placed on pop icons like Grace Jones and David Bowie.

– ‘Beauty more than ever’ –

Mugler — full name Manfred Thierry Mugler — stepped away from high fashion in 2003 but continued to collaborate with stars such as Beyonce and Lady Gaga for their shows. 

And he came out of retirement in 2019 to create Kim Kardashian’s show-stopping “wet look” dress at the Met Gala.

“Rest in peace,” Beyonce’s website posted with a photo of Mugler.

He had shown no sign of slowing down in recent months. 

His perfume, Angel, remained among the top-selling in the world, and his career retrospective, Couturissime, was touring the world (it is currently on its last leg in Paris).

He told the Business of Fashion magazine just a few months ago that he was still hard at work, saying he wanted to be “even more radical, to be more pure, just to live in beauty, and fight for beauty more than ever.”

– Continuing with Covid –

Meanwhile, the show must go on, with many haute couture labels determined to return to the runway this week despite surging in Covid cases in France, which just last Tuesday had a record of nearly 465,000 infections over a 24-hour period. 

More than half — 15 of 29 — are holding live shows, according to the official calendar, including big names like Dior, Chanel and Jean-Paul Gaultier, up from just a handful last year. 

There were some half-hearted efforts at social-distancing during the menswear shows last week — and vaccine passes are required throughout. 

But some labels remain nervous. 

Couture brand Julien Fournie had initially planned to hold a traditional runway show on Tuesday, but replaced it with a digital presentation at the last minute. 

“I feel caught in the crossfire,” its director Jean Paul Cauvin told AFP, fearing that a live show would create “an haute couture cluster”.