RIP Thierry Mugler

Photo by Anastasiia Shevchenko via Pexels

You all will have heard by now that Manfred Thierry Mugler has died. Most of the younger set would remember him because of Angel, his smash-hit scent that permeated the 90’s in the way Giorgio did the 80’s and Halston the 70’s.

Angel hit like a bomb. While others had done gourmand, nobody had managed to hit quite that sweet spot of sweet ‘n dirrrty in the way Mugler did with his combination of chocolate and patchouli. It was a polarizing scent that was almost inescapable- elevators from Beverly Hills to Bahrain reeked of it for years. If you loved it it was heaven, if not…

I hated it.

Well, let me qualify that. I hated it when I smelled it at the store. I hated it on me. I hated it on pretty much everyone else on the elevator, until I had a coworker who wore it. On her it was bliss: warm and snuggly chocolate with the patchouli lending an air of pure sex and a hint of danger. If I hadn’t had been exposed to it I don’t think I would have later tried, loved, and bought gourmands as diverse as Borneo 1834 and Guerlain Spiriteuse Double Vanille.

The runaway success of Angel kind of put in the shade Mugler as a fashion designer, which is a shame. His work was the antithesis of the Calvin Klein heroin-chic thing that was coming up. He was all bright colors and shiny leather: technicolor voluptuaries as diverse as Naomi Campbell, Jerry Hall, ‘Tippi’ Hedren (in a satin dress adorned with strategically place crow feathers) and Lypsinka walked his catwalk. He directed the video for George Michael’s “Too Funky” as a version of the fashion show from “The Women”, if Adrian had been slipped a hit or three of acid: Emma Wiklund stomps down the runway in a dress with a top inspired by a Harley, complete with handlebars and rear-view mirrors. Linda Evangelista stalks out in a white mink shrug and wig that looks like Cool Whip. Tyra Banks vogueing in sheer turquoise. Julie Newmar acrobatic in latex. Females with hips, who aren’t afraid to sling ’em. The song may be George Michael, but the fashion and the vision is Thierry Mugler. Under his direction and with the mix of supermodels, club kids, drag queens and icons, the whole video reads like if David La Chapelle remade “Eyes of Laura Mars” with humor instead of eye-gouging.

Looking back (or lord, shoot me now) 30 years later it’s tinged for me with nostalgia. Of course it was manufactured, art-directed, and airbrushed to an inch of it’s life, but it seems much more fun than the navel-gazing tic-toc “influencer” era we are in today.

Now get off my lawn you!

What are your thoughts on Angel? Love, Hate? Others of his you’ve tried? Have a top with handlebars? Let us know in the comments.


  • Darryl says:

    It wasn’t until 2010 that I discovered Angel – I was a kid in the ’90s and perfume was barely on my radar. It felt both familiar and bizarre, and utterly addictive. My initial gut impression was “sweaty girl at a club”, that combo of sugar, fun, and dirt. Eventually I outgrew its sweetness, but through Angel I discovered my love of patchouli and that particular bright/earthy combo that eventually led me to chypres, both modern and “proper”. I still keep some old Angel around for the odd surreptitious sniff. It’s a hell of a scent. (The current formula feels thinner and less bombastic, and only vaguely gourmand, but probably a lot more wearable for most people.)

    What fascinates me most about Angel is its creation, and how it was marketed. They just don’t launch perfumes that way anymore, going deep into a market instead of going wide, and cultivating a relationship with consumers via feedback cards and gifts for members of the “inner circle”. In many ways, Angel was a niche perfume that just happened to go supernova, or a cult fragrance whose cult happens to be in the millions.

    • Maya says:

      Your last sentence about Angel describes it perfectly! I think both “supernova” and “cult” apply.

  • Musette says:

    those were definitely the days! I love(d) me some peplum and Mugler was Mr. Peplum. I owned a slate-blue suit with a tailored peplum and one of his signature hysterectomy-inducing pin closures. Loved it.

    Angel? Not so much. Actually Not At All.

    RIP, Maestro.


  • Portia says:

    He was cool. Even when he went weird it was so cool.
    Portia xx

  • Dina C. says:

    Mugler is a house that generally doesn’t work for me. I abhored Womanity, which to me smelled like old fish mixed with sweaty gym socks! The only one I really like is the Cologne. I bought it for my son, who was a teen at the time, and loved that steam-ironed dress shirts smell that it has. I still recommend it all the time when mamas want to know what to buy their boys as an alternative to Axe/Lynx body sprays!!

  • Maggiecat says:

    I am also an Angel hater though I keep sniffing it and its flankers to see if my tastes have changed enough to appreciate it. I never really got “gourmand” from Angel because it definitely didn’t smell like something I wanted to eat! Alien is more my speed, but even it is much too strong for me to want to do more than walk through an air spritz. But I admire the man’s genius and creativity, even if I’d rather ride a Harley than wear one!

  • rosarita says:

    I had a coworker who marinated herself in Angel, you could practically taste it when in close proximity. I hated it with a vengeance. Then I received a vintage mini in a swap 20 some years ago and found that wearing a couple of drops is plenty and yes, I eventually fell in love. I really love Angel Cuir (and kicked myself for not buying a bottle) and Angel Taste of fragrance, then bought Muse, then was gifted a bottle of 2015 Angel Liqueur. I love them all and am an example of how perfume tastes can change! However, Alien and shudder Womanity are absolutely sickening to me. To each his own! RIP Mr Mugler.

    • Tom says:

      I think that was part of the issue with it- people did marinate themselves in it. I had a friend who’s idea of application was spray her chest and when her feet were wet she had enough on. She loathed Angel, but once when she had at a tester of Agent Provocateur I had to call the lunch date off.

      I once gave my BFF’s then husband a bottle of Guerlain Vetiver and one morning he put so much on her woke her up out a deep sleep.

      Go steadily people.

  • March says:

    Oh, Angel. I remember being baffled by its popularity (still am) — I got the more medicinal aspect of patchouli in Angel, so to me it smelled like Band-aids and baking cocoa. However I’d go sniff it periodically to see whether my perception of it had changed… I loved Mugler as a clothing designer much more, so over the top. So I guess Angel made sense in that way.

  • MMKinPA says:

    I’m an Angel hater, although I have thought it smelled great on others. Something just goes way off on my skin. Own bottles of Alien, Alien Fusion, Innocent. Wouldn’t say any are true loves but they have a spot in my collection.

    • Tom says:

      I think Angel just scared me off of anything in a star-shaped bottle. That, and the smell of Angel at the counter.

  • Mindy K Grazulis says:

    I did not care for Angel or Alien. I worked at a store that dispensed refills for both and could never get the juice off my hands fast enough. BUT I have a mad crush on Angel Muse. Its salty earthiness linking perfectly with patchouli, fuzzy pink berries and holy vetiver!!!! Androgynous to the max!!!!! RIP Thierry

    • Tom says:

      Oy, I can imagine; I love the idea of stores doing refills. But the idea of having to man that pump for something you don’t like? I think I’d rather move to Jersey and start pumping Ethyl..

  • cinnamon says:

    RIP Mr Mugler. The last few months have been brutal to the fashion etc industry. I can’t wear Angel but very much appreciated it on a work colleague years ago. On her, it was more patchouli, but the sweet aspect still apparent. Really lovely.

    • Tom says:

      Yes, these few weeks have been bad as far as celeb deaths. But I am glad to see that the press is giving Mr. Talley and Mr. Mugler their due.

  • Alityke says:

    My Mugler was Innocent. Angel declawed & house trained. D/ced now of course.
    Angel herself? Nope just no. Probably the only scent I ever asked a colleague not to wear at work. Really not suitable for wearing in a hospital setting!

  • Maya says:

    The first time I smelled Angel was on a women at a farmer’s market. It was gorgeous! For the first and only time I followed someone to ask what perfume they were wearing. I loved it but would only buy it again if it were vintage.
    As much as I love sampling, I very rarely bother with flankers. I did try Angel Muse though – meh.

    • Tom says:

      I haven’t smelled it in the bottle in forever (since I hated it in the bottle) so it never occurred to me that, do course, it would have been reformulated in 30 years..

      • Carlene says:

        I was just about to ask if (or maybe I should say how many times) it has been reformulated. I remember feeling indifferent about it after sniffing it back in the day & never investigated it again.

        • Tom says:

          I would pretty much guarantee that it’s been redone a few times. With all the stupid regulations that keep coming up it’s amazing that we aren’t just having to rub citrus fruits, herbs, and small animals on ourselves in lieu of perfume.

  • Shiva-woman says:

    HATE! VILE! detestable disgusting Angel. (RIP Thierry). But OMG. The worst perfume. But: I think I’m anosmic to some musks, and I think Angel has a lot of the big musks. I love Patchouli–love love love. I love sexy dirty animal smells. I love the way chocolate smells more than it tastes. And Angel was NONE of that for me.
    I was at the Harrods release party and thought WTF. (I bought Valle Des Rois by Mira Takla instead).
    Angel was–and is–for me: Raspberries, cold, metallic, frozen, purple red (that’s the color I see), frozen, sickly with pink sachets of saccharin plentifully sprinkled on top. It positively makes me ill and my stomach heave. I have attempted it many times. I have a tremendous tolerance for a lot of perfumes and rarely scrub (sign of weakness and “giving in” ;). But Angel–run away run away. This is no reflection on Thierry’s immeasurable talent (and clearly I’m in the minority).

  • Kathleen says:

    I love the Too Funky song and video! Not so much Angel, I find it interesting but can’t wear it and even worse when I smell it on someone else. I agree with Teresa, I adore Alien and my favorite is the Essence Absolue.

    • Tom says:

      I think my initial revulsion of Angel made look upon his other scents as a vampire looks at garlic toast: wasn’t going there..

  • Teresa says:

    Oh, my…I absolutely hate Angel…it sends waves of nausea over me and has made me avoid patchouli like the plague…now, Alien, in particular Essence Absolue? That is heaven! Mr. Muglar and his avant garde style will be missed!