Mugler SS22: Butt Lifts, Clones, and Megan Thee Stallion
Creative director Casey Cadwallader completed his trilogy of mind-bending virtual runway shows with the Mugler SS22 collection, out now. Directed by Torso Solutions, the uncanny, TikTok-inspired video features an all-star cast of models including Megan Thee Stallion, Aweng Chuol, Bella Hadid, Chloe Sevigny, and ’90s icons Amber Valletta and Shalom Harlow (spoiler alert: they kiss!) Throughout the short film, the brand pays tribute to the extravagant runway shows of the late Manfred Thierry Mugler with archival references and surreal sets that include vintage cars and Hollywood back lots reminiscent of the streets of New York. To find out more about the sultry collection, we spoke to Cadwallader about butt lifts, clones, and carefully planned absurdity.
CASEY CADWALLADER: Hi Taylore.
TAYLORE SCARABELLI: Hi Casey. Nice to meet you. Where are you at?
CADWALLADER: I am in Paris.
SCARABELLI: Fab. I loved the video. It really topped off the trilogy. I don’t know if this is intentional or if it was just me, but I was like, “All these ass-less chaps and bodysuits are giving jock strap.”
CADWALLADER: [Laughs] It’s definitely in the spirit of that. The jeans have always had this strap that goes under the bum that’s like a body-shaping, lifting mechanism. Usually they’re made out of Lycra but this time we decided to replace it with the illusion tool. We left the denim part under the bum, because if you’re going to show off your butt, you have to lift it up. We made one pair and when we saw them in the fitting and everyone was just like, “Oh my god, are we doing this?” And I was like, “Yes we are.”
SCARABELLI: I was thinking about old Mugler and how the garments created new shapes for the body, whereas, in the current era, people are creating their own ideal body shapes with procedures and things like that. In your designs, there’s a little bit less intervention, it’s really about showing off people’s silhouettes as they come.
CADWALLADER: It’s about working with what you’ve got, and I think that that’s much more the spirit of today—being proud of who you are and being proud of how your body is different, what parts of it are great. I also love making other silhouettes and big shapes on people, but not everyone can wear those as easily.
SCARABELLI: Totally. I also loved Meg on the billboard looking like a star in Selling Sunset or something.
CADWALLADER: Yeah, it’s funny. We found this GIF on the internet of a comedian from the ’90s—a man, totally random, and just his hair was moving. We were like, “That is so weird. We have to have her jump on the limousine and then freeze-frame into that, but keep her hair moving just for that moment.” That was one of the more planned things. I mean, a lot of it was planned, but that was something that had to happen. That was the intro for her.
SCARABELLI: Carefully planned absurdity.
CADWALLADER: Totally, because there’s a framework, and then there’s what happens when the performance is added. Sometimes you don’t know what is going to come out of someone.
SCARABELLI: And that’s the magic of working with Torso, they’re known for those kinds of things.
CADWALLADER: They’re so intelligent, and their references are so deep and interesting and varied. And then there is also this fluidity to what’s going to happen. We’ve built this atmosphere of what it’s like to be on set for a Mugler film shoot. A lot of these cast members, it’s not their first time at the rodeo, so they walk in and they’re like, “All right motherfuckers, what are you going to do to me this time?” There’s this sort of daring bravery, like, “What do you got? What are you going to make me jump off of this time?” Everyone supports each other. They laugh, and they root each other on. On set we have a DJ just to get the spirit going and then everyone is screaming at each other like, “Go. Yes, bitch.” It’s amazing energy.
SCARABELLI: You also had a ballroom icon, Barbie Swaee, and the video has that ballroom energy. I guess you were mirroring that while you were producing it.
CADWALLADER: Yeah. We worked with a new choreographer, Traci [Young-Byron], her name on Instagram is @supa_blackgirl, and she does all these dramatic, amazing marches. We were like, “We want to get fashion models moving like this. It would be so fab.” In the transition where Aweng leans back and goes through the door, that’s a signature Traci move. It’s one of my favorite parts of the movie.
SCARABELLI: It’s so good. And then there’s Barbie Swaee’s death drop.
CADWALLADER: That was also pretty pre-planned. We were like, “We are going to have Barbie wearing the same outfit as Chloe Sevigny, and Chloe Sevigny is going to do a death drop. Ha, ha, ha.” And Chloe was like, “What?”
SCARABELLI: She was like, “What’s that?”
CADWALLADER: She was down, but she was like, “You guys are fucking crazy.”
SCARABELLI: Those transitions were interesting in the context of the brand’s hype right now. Last year, your bodysuits went totally viral. Every single relevant pop star was wearing them, to a point where people were like, “Oh my god, it’s too much.” But in a way, it’s just the state of fashion now. Everybody loves the same thing. I know the press release said something about the world of clones and celebrating individuality, but to me, the show was celebrating the world of clones because everybody looks the same.
CADWALLADER: There’s the truth to both sides. I mean, the whole bodysuit thing, yeah, I get a lot of shit for them, but at the same time, people love them. Everyone’s like, “Oh, here he goes again with another bodysuit.” And I’m like, “It’s just a type of clothing now.” There’s dresses, and there’s pants, there’s tops, and there’s catsuits. I was watching RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, and every one of those girls is doing their performances in catsuits.
SCARABELLI: Well, that’s what pop stars have always worn.
CADWALLADER: Yeah, yet people are blaming me for its existence. At the same time, it’s great, because you can move, and your actions are not impeded, and if you do them right, they shape your body and you look good, and you can dance, and you can sing. It’s amazing.
SCARABELLI: But do you have any thoughts on algorithmic style? Are you into everyone dressing similarly? Or are you pro-individuality?
CADWALLADER: No, I definitely want everyone to be an individual. I think that what makes you an individual is you. It’s the way you talk, it’s the way you act, it’s the way you communicate, it’s what you give to the world. It’s not just what you wear. I think that everyone should be wearing different things as much as possible, but the thing about a bodysuit is, it shows off your differences—everyone’s body is different.
SCARABELLI: Right. But I guess the video just made me feel like, “Oh, girls are going to want to be part of that crew.”
CADWALLADER: The clone part of the show was based on this idea of just having this really messed up world where all of a sudden, all the lycra clothes show up in all different colors, and then we have these crazy-ass wigs. It just feels like some weird anime twisted moment, and then we break out of it. But it was hilarious to film, to try to get everyone to do the same thing.
SCARABELLI: Was there anything you were watching or thinking about when you were designing the collection that inspired it?
CADWALLADER: I tend to look at things that don’t have a lot to do with clothes. I’m always looking at our own archives. Like the tribute scene at the end, I showed the piece that I was referencing for the new plexiglass harness structure. It was really about this idea of chasing illusion pushing it to the max. Like that outfit Bella was wearing that had this tiny half star barely covering the breast and the tiniest little thong. It was like this race to do the bare minimum and still keep it very sinuous and Mugler-looking at the same time. We tried to be a bit more colorful and a bit more playful in certain ways, but we kept it quite sleek.
SCARABELLI: Speaking of the archive, how do you feel working in the footsteps of Manfred in an era where everyone’s so obsessed with archival fashion? Do you feel a lot of pressure to bring in references?
CADWALLADER: I’ve always been excited to bring in references and to do them my way. I’ve done it since the very first season. I don’t copy them, but I grift elements from them like construction details, or different aspects of the fit. But I didn’t want to mock him, and I didn’t want it to feel like it didn’t come from me. I have to give myself that freedom, because that’s the freedom in which he created those things. I do me, he did him. But I love that he was celebrated so much before he passed away. For me, the most magical thing was that he got to see an exhibition of his work open in Paris. We had a huge party. We had all of the kids from the new Mugler and all of his people dancing together. It felt so special. I always wanted to show him how much we appreciate what he did and how amazing it was. Thank goodness we got the chance to do that.
SCARABELLI: That’s beautiful. So what’s next? Are you thinking about returning to the runway?
CADWALLADER: That’s everyone’s question, and I have six more months to figure it out. You’ll find out soon, after I do. But I mean, I want to mix it up. I will not be snapping back to the regular old thing. It’s too much fun to be naughty and to do whatever you want.