Fashion exhibitions usually seem dusty - because fashion only works on the living subject, not on the doll.

In the Kunsthalle München in 2020, however, right from the first room you were drawn into the world of fashion designer Thierry Mugler, into this peculiar mixture of futurism and fetishism, this intermediate world in which the women and even the dolls in chrome bustiers seem more martial than anywhere else otherwise and yet also as feminine as seldom.

The newfangled game with gender roles - it wasn't just born in our day, but half a century ago.

Since the "Couturissime" exhibition, people even in Munich have known that femininity can also be viewed differently.

Alphonse Kaiser

Responsible editor for the department "Germany and the World" and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin.

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Thierry Mugler, who died on Sunday at the age of 73, was already forced to cross borders in his biography. He was born on December 21, 1948 into a family that had moved to Strasbourg from Linz in Upper Austria during the post-war turmoil. The boy wanted to overcome the narrow-mindedness in the family and the limitations of the 1950s. "I didn't fit into this world. And I didn't fit into this family. Not at all. I suffered a lot," he told the FAZ in 2020. "But I was also a very busy child: I worked day and night, in the theater, on costumes, on puppets, on poems - I always created something to overcome this tightness escape.At the age of 14 he began training as a ballet dancer at the Opéra national du Rhin and then studied costume design at the École supérieure des arts décoratifs in Strasbourg. Thus began his theatrical broadcast.

It was time for something new

Like so many young gay men from the provinces, he moved to Paris at the end of the 1960s – another kind of biographical compulsion, as sociologist Didier Eribon later described it.

But unlike Yves Saint Laurent and his followers, he didn't succumb to the hippie looks during the student rebellion, the flowing looks of the early seventies, which at some point culminated in retro kitsch.

Rather, he radicalized the futuristic 1960s concepts of space-age pioneer André Courrèges and chain mail plumber Paco Rabanne, who had shot futurism into another orbit.

What a fitting coincidence that he was living in Paris with Claude Montana, who, since his years in London, had also had enough of Parisian fashion, which threatened to ossify despite the Prêt-à-porter revolution – Yves Saint Laurent was twelve after all older than her. Coco Chanel, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Elsa Schiaparelli died in quick succession in the early 1970s. It was time for something new.

Mugler and Montana experimented with sculptural yet form-fitting silhouettes that were made for the '80s.

They exhibited the body and still protected it.

They satirized the look of the "power women" with the broad shoulders and yet used it ironically.

But instead of putting women in pinstripe pantsuits on their long journey through emancipation and integrating them into office life, Mugler, despite all the martial touches, absolved them into the unearthly vagueness and thereby gave them a whole new feeling of freedom.

They came back in body suits, not down to earth, but down to earth on the dance floor.