Q&A: Sébastien Peigné and Nicola Formichetti of Mugler are bringing sexy back

Sébastien Peigné and Nicola Formichetti of Mugler

Sébastien Peigné and Nicola Formichetti of Mugler

Strategic cut-outs, thigh-high slits and body-con shapes: Sébastien Peigné and Nicola Formichetti of Mugler are bringing sexy back.

Reviving Mugler is a monster task. After designer Thierry Mugler took his final runway bow at his couture show in July 2000, this kinky house of cool (remember Demi Moore’s bondage-style dress in 1993’s Indecent Proposal?) started flatlining. Ten years later, the resuscitation began. In 2010, following months of speculation, Nicola Formichetti (Lady Gaga’s stylist) was tapped to lead the revival of the French house known for its over-the-top theatricality and sex appeal. Besides outfitting Mother Monster, this 34-year-old half-Italian, half-Japanese, techno-savvy superstar is also the fashion director for Vogue Hommes Japan and global retailer Uniqlo. His debut Mugler womenswear show during Fall 2011 Paris Fashion Week had the twitterverse buzzing about its latex-dipped leggings, body-stocking dresses and the catwalk pièce de résistance: Gaga, smoking in every sense of the word.

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The other half of this comeback story is Sébastien Peigné. An alumnus of Balenciaga (he spent 10 years working alongside Nicolas Ghesquière), this 31-year-old up-and-comer is the new head designer of Mugler’s womenswear collection. Unlike Formichetti, he prefers the anonymity of working behind the scenes. When the three of us sat down together last November at The Room at the Bay in Toronto, Peigné was quiet and a little shy, though not without a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Here, they talk design inspiration, Tumblr and hidden talents.
Nicola, how do you find balance with all of your work-related travel?
Nicola: “I’ve [been like this] since I was little. My parents always travelled, so I was used to this life. I don’t look at the different time zones. I just look at the time where I am.”

How does the design process work between the two of you?
Nicola: “At the beginning [of each season], we talk about everything, and then it’s all Sébastien’s. I just stand next to him and watch.”
Sébastien: [Laughs] “It’s a composition of what we plan to do, and then the mood and proportions come out.”

Sébastien, how does your job at Mugler differ from your time at Balenciaga?
Sébastien: “It was more like a family at Balenciaga. We worked together for a long, long time. Ten years ago it was small, but by the end it was huge. I wanted to start again so that’s why I [moved] to Mugler, to get into a new project.”
Nicola: “You had good timing. It is such a small team. It’s only been a year that we’ve been together, so we’re just starting to know each other.”

Sébastien, do you prefer working behind the scenes while Nicola takes the media spotlight? 
Sébastien: “I definitely like to work [behind] the scenes with the team, creating the clothes.”

How do you make sure the collection is marketable?
Nicola: “The collection is very small, so we are slowly expanding. We’re still figuring out what our staples are. We don’t feel like doing It bags yet. I think we need to focus on the clothing first. Right now, we’re more interested in doing a collection of shoes. We dream about getting into jewellery. We want to reinvent in our own way and not follow the crowd. It’s great because there are no rules anymore. People with great, original ideas—they’re the ones who win. They fight for it.”

Do you go to the archives for design inspiration?
Nicola: “Yes, the last collection we did. We started off there. We were telling each other which pieces we liked and we took hair inspirations. Our second collection was inspired by our memory of Mugler, by deconstructing those memories and making something different.”

Why do you focus on digital communication by live-streaming shows and Tweeting behind the scenes?
Nicola: “What else is there?” [Laughs]

So do you think that print magazines will be obsolete someday?
Nicola: “No, never, it’s a balance. We were pushing digital because it was a natural thing for me to want. Not a lot of people were doing it. Some things work better online and some look so much better in print. I’m into researching digital artists all over the world. I’m always looking on Tumblr.”

Let’s switch gears now. You’re a classically trained pianist, Nicola—do you still play?
Nicola: “Yes, oh my God, I just bought a piano yesterday. It’s a passion. I never had [one] in my house until recently because of the noise. I didn’t want to offend my neighbours. But Yamaha designed this amazing grand piano that you can plug headphones into. But I don’t play for anyone. I just play for myself. It’s like meditation.”

What do you play?
Nicola: “Classical [pieces] by Chopin and Beethoven, but I’m trying to become a bit more experimental with artists like Philip Glass.”

What about you, Sébastien? Do you have any hidden talents?
Sébastien: “I only do fashion, but I can dance and sing too.”
Nicola: “He’s got a really good voice.” 

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