Project Runway alum Chris March is suing Thierry Mugler for allegedly not paying him for work he did on Beyoncé’s costumes for her current I AM tour. That sentence was a lot to take in: Chris March, Beyoncé, Thierry Mugler, a lawsuit. And we had no idea Chris even worked on costumes for Beyoncé — and her band and her backup dancers — until the suit surfaced. Reached by phone this afternoon, Chris explained he’s worked with Thierry for almost seven years on various projects, including Cirque du Soleil costumes. Beyoncé hired Mugler to create her tour costumes in November, and Chris met with Mugler about the project in late December. In January he started work.
Mugler designed the costumes but hired Chris to help him actually make them. Mugler’s expertise lies primarily in design, but March’s lies primarily in execution. “He isn’t used to having things made in the U.S., so he hired me to be the head of costume,” March explained. “Thierry doesn’t have a theatrical background so I was hired to make sure the costumes were usable for stage purposes.” For example, March had to figure out how to attach a harness to the costume Beyoncé wears when she flies through the air. He also had to make sure her costumes would keep her lovely lady lumps in place. “So many things need to be taken into consideration with her because she dances so” — he paused to find the right word — “wildly,” he chuckled. “So she gets onstage and she’s like, ‘I gotta move and I gotta dance.’ And wow.”
He wasted no time molding those fabulous corsets perfectly to her figure. “One of the first things I did for [Beyoncé] was put her in a special corset and wrap her in aluminum foil and then wrap a warm plastic around her until it dries,” he explained of the diva corset-production process. That plastic form helps the costume creators mold certain clothing articles to her body. “There’s one that’s a huge wire frame that’s covered in stretch mesh and trimmed in feathers. There’s one that’s molded apoxy that lights up like a motorcycle theme,” Chris said of the various looks the plastic mold was used for. “It’s a messy process.” Since Beyoncé couldn’t make every fitting, the team hired a body double to fill in for her. To ensure the pieces wouldn’t budge when she shakes it, “We didn’t use a lot of boning or any like super-structured look,” March explained. “We just make sure that things are short and lightweight so she doesn’t get hot and all encumbered and can’t dance.” No one wants an encumbered Beyoncé.
The costumes had to get to Edmonton, Canada, by March 26 for her first show. March completed the project, sent the sparkly divawear off to Canada, and submitted his last invoice to Mugler. March says Mugler had paid everything he submitted up until the final bill. “Of course things got crazy at the end going to Hartford, Connecticut, for rehearsals and everything, so we finished up and got it to Canada on time and turned in our invoices the next day and Thierry left for Paris without paying anybody.” (Beyoncé paid Thierry, and he paid his team.) Chris continued, “There’s just been a refusal to pay with no reason.”
Until the lawsuit is sorted out, Chris has his Beyoncé memories. “When she met me she goes ‘Oh my God, I’m such a big fan of yours,’ ” he said. Yes, Beyoncé watches Project Runway — just like us! “I was a little nervous to meet her and to find out she was a little nervous to meet me was really funny!”
Currently March is working on a coffee-table book that showcases 25 years of his designs, in talks with a few parties about working on Broadway shows, and filming a pilot for a reality show about him and his workshop. March couldn’t reveal much about the show in its early phases. “It’s kind of like Ace of Cakes — they would follow me around doing all my projects,” he said. “So things are really great. And I never would have had this opportunity without Project Runway.”