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In Profile: Casey Cadwallader

In Profile: Casey Cadwallader

Flannels blog article
In Profile: Casey Cadwallader

Mugler’s out-there designs and hot silhouettes are rapidly gaining cult status in the fashion world. From their iconic thong jeans to illusion Lycra, the brand has cultivated a following of devoted fans - counting the likes of Beyoncé, Cardi B and Bella Hadid amongst them.

And the man behind it all? Creative director Casey Cadwallader. Championing the female body in all its glory, Cadwallader is working hard to change the face of the fashion industry, showcasing bodies of all shapes and sizes in the brand’s campaigns, working with a whole host of muses, and dressing some of the most-watched women in the world. Not to mention masterminding collections that actually work for bodies everywhere. Fabrics are stretchy, supportive, and designed with clever lines and detailing to create curves in all the right places.

His approach is paying off. It’s been a big year, with Beyoncé and Billie Eilish both appearing on the cover of British Vogue in his illusion Lycra pieces, not to mention that WAP video, in which Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B donned Mugler.

To celebrate the launch of Mugler on FLANNELS, Cadwallader chatted to us from Paris about what being a Mugler woman means, how he’s forging a new path in fashion, and his favourite creations.

Get ready to get to know Casey Cadwallader a little better… 

How would you describe the Mugler woman? 

I think for me, beauty is something that’s not just outside; it has to do with someone’s conviction and their confidence and their ability to lift a room. I think in general, Mugler is such a special brand because it’s not there for your basic run-of-the-mill things; it’s there for the special things that get you really excited, that you want to put on when you’re going to a very special place. I try to just keep that in mind: that everybody needs that lift and that even for people who aren’t as confident and fierce as the “ideal” Mugler woman, this gives them a chance to enter into that character if they want for the night.

That’s something that we’re all craving now more than ever…

For sure. I think that at a certain point during my work for Mugler, I realised people don’t want normal stuff from us. They want things that they’re like ‘Woah, what is this?’ and that sorts out your customer because Mugler is really for the bold and for the brave, in a way. Once I clicked into that is when it started to take off even more. It’s just so different than in the early 2000s when everyone was designing a twin set… at Mugler, you know the twin set would just be a bra.

I think it makes them feel fierce, it makes them feel excited and it makes them know that their curves are beautiful.

What makes a Mugler piece?

I think there was a moment when we found that illusion fabric where I was like ‘ok, game on, this going to be so fun to do’. I want Mugler to still have the very high end, crafted pieces but also to [appeal to] younger people and people who can only afford lower price points. Even in the beginning when I was doing denim I was like ‘ok, if I do denim, it is not going to be boring’, it can’t be just your run-of-the-mill denim, it has to be something that’s more anatomical, that really enhances your body.

You’ve been firm on your stance of championing bodies of all shapes and ensuring your brand is empowering and inclusive…

I don’t like it when I hear that people feel rejected by fashion. I read an article like five years ago about how 80% of women feel like they are not for high fashion but yet they want it. It just stuck with me, and I was like ‘that is terrible’. I have a mother and a sister who are both curvy and more on the petite side and I’ve worked in fashion for a long time, and I always get them something from where I’m working and often, they’re like ‘ugh, I can’t, there’s no room for my boobs, like what’s going on?’ It just sort of clicked in me when I had the authority to make the decisions that I really wanted to try to work towards solving that problem and to make going into the changing room more pleasant, where you feel good about yourself. 

That must come with some challenges in the fashion world...

The fashion world is sort of built on having a fit model who is your mould, and everything runs on that size and it’s a small size… if you’re looking at that every day, then you’re not necessarily solving problems for women who have bigger curves. I got a model who’s got a little bit of a bigger bum and bigger boobs so that when we’re fitting, it’s in front of me all the time… Everyone around me knows how important it is to me and they realise the potential of how important it is to show women that have different bodies on the runway and how that sends this big message out to clients being like ‘hey we’re thinking about you and we’re designing with you in mind’.  

What do you want people to feel when they wear Mugler?  

There’s something about Mugler that is very showy, so I think that the fact that people see the clothes on Dua Lipa or Cardi [B] or whatever, it makes them sort of see this energy that comes to the clothes. I think in the last year I’ve started to see many many more clients on Instagram posting themselves in something that they just bought, and the variety of bodies is so amazing. It gives me such great joy to see these women who are big in like Atlanta going out at night to the club with their girlfriends and posting a picture of her butt and being like ‘#Mugler making me feel myself tonight’ and I’m like ‘oh that’s exactly what I want to do’. So yeah, I think it makes them feel fierce, it makes them feel excited and it makes them know that their curves are beautiful.

I’m also a bit of a psychopath about fit - it has to be perfect, and it has to be sharp and precise and clean and flattering.


You understand women’s bodies so well. What was it that gave you the insight and confidence to create these pieces? 

I worked for Narciso Rodriguez in New York for two different phases of my career, and he is like a nano-surgeon when it comes to fit and very very strong in bodycon, so I think I knew my way around curves for a long time. I think I’m also a bit of a psychopath about fit - it has to be perfect, and it has to be sharp and precise and clean and flattering, and I think that comes from my training. Then also I’m trained as an architect, so I’m obsessed with sculpture and the quality of a curve and all these things. It’s really that you know clothing is there to enhance the body, so it’s just always about sculpting everything to do the right thing.

Fashion feels to be – more so than ever - obsessed with a throwback to the past. How much do you look to the Mugler archives?

Every season part of the process is that we start doing our research, in which we set ourselves a bit of direction, and then we make a pull from the archive and bring it to the office and try it on. I don’t ever want to copy him - I want to refer back to it and it’s quite a luxury because there is so much, and it is so exciting that I feel like I have access to that and no one else does. I’m inspired by a million other things, and I think it’s really the smashing together of very different things that makes something new.

How have the past 18 months changed things?

Designing spring/summer 21, which ended up turning into the film, was the weirdest season because we all designed it right at the beginning of confinement, all from our homes. It was a very very clear season because there was so much time to think. We had everything photoshopped in all the colours before we even started making it. We’re never that ready. It taught us a bit about streamlining and being clearer but it’s also when we decided to completely flip how the brand functions and go to this see-now-buy-now system so that we’re pre-producing and everything’s ready three months before anyone really sees it. 

 How do you think it’ll change your approach to fashion going forward? 

We went into this sort of sport couture world during confinement - it just worked so well. I think now we’re going to be able to maybe go a little bit more decadent again and maybe just go a little bit more evening. But I’m not going to go away from those other categories - they’re now the core of what we are. 

What does fashion mean to you? 

The thing that I really learned, especially being a creative director for the first time at Mugler, is that fashion is this sort of infinite machine that can do whatever you want it to. You have to pick what your priorities are, and you can turn it into an engine to address whatever issues you want. For me, it has to do with individuality and self-confidence and people who fully realise themselves and get through the fight of you know people not liking them because they’re curvy or people not liking them because they’re gay or trans, and then this self-realisation and sort of blossoming into yourself. That’s what interests me, that’s what makes me attracted to my friends, and that’s also what Mugler is built on. That’s why I was so hellbent on getting this job because I knew that it resonated with me so much.  I think I have a responsibility as a creative director to push things in a direction, and for me I really want to open up the definition of beauty by showing other alternatives that are just as powerful and beautiful as the ones that we maybe have known for the last thirty years. 

I THINK I HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY AS A CREATIVE DIRECTOR TO PUSH THINGS IN A DIRECTION, AND FOR ME i REALLY WANT TO OPEN UP THE DEFINITION OF BEAUTY BY SHOWING OTHER ALTERNATIVES. 

I know people don’t like to pick favourites, but what stands out to you in the collection? 

I think that the thong jeans are just like… every time I look at them, I’m like ‘ooooh’ cos they’re just they’re crazy. But they actually really do something, and I think I can attest to that because I’m a women’s 40 and I put on a women’s 36 and I was like pulling them on and I could feel the butt just like opening and allowing my body to like enter the pants and I was like ‘these things really work’. They’re shaping you at the same time and I just think that they’re also so iconic. You can see them from a mile away and you know that that’s what they are. I think they really make people happy. I think that they’re also so different and so bizarre at the same time that they’re familiar, so I really gravitate to them. Then I really do love the Lycra and illusion stuff just because it’s so easy but then so intense at the same time.

 

It was incredible to see both Beyonce and Billie Eilish in them on the cover of British Vogue…  

When British Vogue called and was like ‘we have a very special project and it’s going to be the first time that Billie Eilish shows her body and we thought of you’. I was like ‘I’m in’ like ‘what do we need to do?’ That image, I mean both of those images, were obviously some of my favourite moments of 2020.