The confidence imbued in Casey Cadwallader’s vision for Mugler revibrates from the designer himself. “We’re selling a lot more clothes than we did when I first started,” he says over Zoom. “You know, I’m American, so I pay attention to that stuff.” His arrival at Mugler in 2018 ushered in a new dawn for the house. The hyper-real sensuality Mugler is known for now comes attuned to the desires of today. Cadwallader’s designs are sensual, agile and engineered to dress up the mundane. One of his second-skin bodysuits upholds the power to propel its wearer to feel akin to that of a Marvel heroine, favoured by Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus and more.
He’s moved the brand to operate under see-now-buy-now, showing true to season, and while many of his contemporaries scrambled to get back to showing IRL last month, Cadwallader has no desire to return back to quote-on-quote normality. “I don’t want to go back to the runway the same way,” he affirms. “It was kind of difficult for me to watch this season unfold, to see many people just pretend like nothing ever happened. For me, I feel like some sort of rope got cut, I am like now drifting off somewhere, and I don’t really want to tie myself back up with it.”
For Cadwallader, creating a fashion film is democratic. “I want everyone to feel like they know this person, I want them to see them stare into their eyes, I want them to feel that connection,” explaining that this sort of energy is unattainable with traditional catwalk livestreams. It is just as important, he says, to capture how a model’s skin dances as they stride as actually showcasing the clothes.
The designer and his team were able to achieve this via a series of drone cameras that followed Mugler muses Bella Hadid, Dominique Jackson, Amber Valletta, Kai-Isaiah Jamal and Lourdes Leon, as they charged through a sparse white space. While last season’s hyper-real film was about “taking the runway and fucking with it,” this time around, Cadwallader saught to break down our preconceived ideas of what a catwalk can entail. A series of faceless figures stalked the models as they walked, mimicking their movements before disappearing into thin air. In one notion, they assisted Cadwallader’s glamazons with extreme poses, the next, they appeared sinister.
This season, Cadwallader was set on having “a real wardrobe for the Mugler person”; how he imagines his clothes living in the everyday – meeting broad-shouldered leather trenches with barely-there rah-rah skirts, jersey camisole dresses and a new iteration of his signature spiral jeans. While the brand is known for its theatrical collections through the early 1990s, the designer is quick to point out that Mugler has a strong ready-to-wear past, particularly in denim, Lycra knitwear and faux fur coats.
Where Cadwallader thrives is his ability to offer flexibility to the codes the brand is built on. This collection’s bodysuits are made from a new fabric dubbed techno jersey – a mix of velvet and vinyl which appears liquid-like – which is an advancement of a more rigid material pulled from the archive. His corsetry is laser cut, the boning trapped between two layers of stretch fabric. “At the same time that [the corset] is shaping the body for sure, you can tie your shoes, and you can sit down in a taxi,” he says. His design hand is inspired by the heroic, yet rooted in realism.
Photography courtesy of Mugler.