No pennies were spared this season to make up the incredible casting. The show opened with Italian model Mariacarla Boscono and also featured the OG reality TV queen Paris Hilton in a black suit-style dress, fitted at the waist and boxy towards the shoulders. We also saw breakout model of the season Alex Consani, established models Paloma Elsesser, Jila Kortleve and Anok Yai, who closed the show, fellow fashion designer Mowalola Ogunlesi and Golden Globe winner Angela Bassett.
Cadwallader offered us a blast from the past – a common theme we’ll get into later – enlisting ‘90s models Helena Christensen and Connie Fleming, both of whom have walked for the Maison in the past, notably Fleming in the red cowboy look from SS98.
Assuming the budget was blown on the cast, Mugler kept the set design relatively simple: white flooring and a hung up white backdrop was all. To accompany the otherwise plain set, fans were placed on the ground to add movement to the clothing while strobe lights gave us split second glimpses of the collection.
The use of the fans made for breath-taking visuals, as you’ve most likely already seen on your feed, bringing life to the clothing made out of flowing tulle and fringed detailing. However, the artificially-induced wind created less of an impact on the fitted, boxy suits and suit-pieces, denim jackets and fitted dresses that dominated the collection and essentially remained static.
As previously mentioned, we also saw a lot of references from the ‘90s archives being pulled out and redesigned this season, which always calls for a big thumbs up from the industry – or in Anna Wintour’s case, two nods. SS98 Couture was a key reference point this season, where we saw a range of crystals and metals creating the famous ‘wet look,’ appearing as though they were droplets of water.
Shapes, silhouettes, materials, and most importantly ideas from the couture show were replicated this season, such as on a see-through bodice, a dress made out of hanging crystal-like pendants, and bodysuits made out of shiny, sequined feather-like detailings. Though when put side-by-side to its reference archival images, the designs simply fall flat.
The House of Mugler went from dressing glamazons, celebrating queer culture, unnerving a new, subversive, provoking kind of beauty, presented in a futuristic, architectural and sculptural form to putting Dua Lipa in a catsuit. While this can partly be attributed to times changing, and therefore the fashion landscape following, it seems as though the grandiose and spectacular that Mugler was once known for was lost in the move.
Casey Cadwallader is by no means a bad designer, he just so happens to be in the same sticky position that Sarah Burton was (up until recently) at Alexander McQueen and Demna is at Balenciaga (though his case is certainly more radical than Cadwallader’s and Burton’s combined). Cadwallader has been tasked to fulfil an unfillable void, continue the life-long legacy of one of the greatest couturiers to exist in the tenure of only six years (so far).
This begs the question of whether or not the legacy of such a House like Mugler’s is even worth carrying on on a season-to-season basis. Of course, Mugler’s lasting impact on fashion will live on as long as fashion does, but is it really necessary to keep churning out collections that vaguely resemble his past designs which we already know will never really meet the standard set by the couturier years ago? If that’s the way it’s going to be, those collections better do Mugler justice.
In Cadwallader’s case, his reign of Mugler hasn’t completely destroyed the Maison or its image, but often leaves attendees thinking “this simply doesn’t compare to Thierry Mugler.” An unquenchable satisfaction for the nostalgics built upon impossible-to-meet-expectations. Though at the end of the day, fashion is a business, and the show must go on.
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