Mugler was born in Strasbourg, France. His passion led him to focus more on drawing than on school; at the age of 9, he began to study classical dance. By 14, he joined the ballet corps for the Opéra national du Rhin.
At the age of 24, Mugler moved to Paris and began working as a professional photographer while simultaneously freelancing as an assistant designer for a number of fashion houses in Paris, London, and Milan. Mugler showed his first ready-to-wear collection (using the brand name Café de Paris) in 1973 and obtained financial backing to open his own company, Thierry Mugler, in 1974.
Melka Tréanton, an influential fashion editor, helped to launch his career. In 1976, she asked him to show his work in Tokyo for an event organized by Shiseido. Within two years, he had opened his first Paris boutique at the Place des Victoires in the 1er Arrondissement. At the same time, Thierry Mugler launched a fashion collection for men. During the 1980s and 1990s, Thierry Mugler became an internationally recognized designer, and his collections garnered much commercial success. At the request of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, he completed his first haute couture collection in 1992. He created the famous black dress worn by Demi Moore in the movie Indecent Proposal the following year.
In 2002 Mugler collaborated with the Cirque du Soleil. He directed “Extravaganza,” a scene from Zumanity, and also created all the costumes and the identity of the characters in the show. In 2009, Mugler worked as artistic advisor to singer Beyoncé. He created the costumes for her “I Am… World Tour”. In 2016, Mugler created and directed the music video and staging for San Marino’s Eurovision Song Contest entry I Didn’t Know performed by Turkish singer Serhat.
Despite retiring from his brand in 2003, he made the exception to design under his name “House of Mugler” for the Met Gala in 2019, and for a dear friend of his, Kim Kardashian. Getting his inspiration from Sophia Loren in Boy on a Dolphin, Mugler envisioned a wet California girl, hence the creation of the “wet couture dress.”
Mugler’s characteristic style draws heavily on the iconography of sexual fetishism, and his models frequently resemble dominatrixes, from their towering high-heeled boots and corseted curves to such accessories as neck corsets and riding crops. Among his most notorious ensembles are a hot-red “cowboy” outfit consisting of hat, corset, chaps, and heels, worn by a black transgender model, and his famous motorcycle bustier inspired by Detroit car styles of the 1950s. Mugler frequently made garments of leather and rubber, some of which make their wearers resemble giant insects drawn from science fiction. Examples of his less-theatrical outfits, such as his colorful and sharply tailored suits, were widely popular, especially in the 1980s. As of 2004, Mugler suspended designing both couture and ready-to-wear, although he continued to produce unique costumes.