The Secrets Behind Thierry Mugler’s Iconic Angel Ad Campaigns

Photo: Courtesy of Clarins and Thierry Mugler

Introduced in 1992, Thierry Mugler’s first scent, Angel, was a game-lchanger in the fragrance world. The bold, brash bottle (it was blue! and star-shaped!) looked like nothing else in the department stores. And the scent itself was unapologetically sweet and rich, with notes of vanilla and chocolate. (It’s considered to be the first “oriental gourmand” fragrance.) The ad campaigns, initially photographed by Mugler himself, were also iconic in their own right. The house’s creative director, Christophe de Lataillade, oversaw all the campaigns, including the 1992 ad starring Estelle Lefébure hanging off the edge of a Manhattan skyscraper and the 2008 ad starring a secretly pregnant Naomi Watts. De Lataillade (who translated French romance novels before he was hired as Mugler’s assistant 25 years ago) is still with the brand, and this year, they’re celebrating the scent’s twentieth anniversary. Click through the slideshow to see some of the most iconic images and hear de Latilade’s behind-the-scenes stories.

Photo: Courtesy of Clarins and Thierry Mugler

1992 Campaign Starring Estelle Lefébure

“I can’t remember the building, but it was near Times Square. Estelle was wearing a very tame Mugler black suit and blue scarf. Security guards in America are much stricter than they are in Europe, so I always had to distract them so that Thierry could have Estelle get much closer to the edge than they would allow.”

Photo: Courtesy of Clarins and Thierry Mugler

1995 Campaign Starring Jerry Hall

“We shot this in White Sands, New Mexico. Apparently Jerry had been visiting her family in Texas at the time, so she told me, ‘I will make my arrangements, just tell me where the hotel is.’ The day of the shoot, a huge white stretch limo appeared with a chauffeur who looked like a pimp or something, all dressed in white with white crocodile boots. Jerry came out and had big Vuitton trunks filled with lingerie with her. She spent her evenings doing fittings with her own lingerie in an ugly little motel in Alamo Gordo. That was the sort of thing she did.”

Photo: Courtesy of Clarins and Thierry Mugler

1998 Campaign Starring Amy Wesson

“This time Thierry’s idea was that Amy would be like a living crystal, surrounded by crystals. So we built a kaleidoscope-like cube so that it looked like she was trapped. And she actually couldn’t move once inside the box.  Thierry’s famous corset-maker, Mr. Pearl, who did all his campaigns and runway shows, had made the dress. It was an extremely tight corset, and when you’re wearing it you can hardly breathe. So we had to take a lot of breaks. Otherwise, I don’t know if Amy would have survived the ordeal.”

Photo: Courtesy of Clarins and Thierry Mugler

2003 Campaign Starring Anna Maria Cseh

“Thierry had imagined a story of a girl who wants to escape this world that she’s not pleased with, so she takes refuge on top of a skyscraper. What you see in the ad is a backdrop that’s actually a combination of Hong Kong and Tokyo — we were very inspired by Blade Runner. We shot this in a rented movie theater in Paris because we couldn’t find a studio that was large enough to accomodate the fake rooftop we built with lights under it. It was so hot that we called it ‘the toaster.’ We could only leave her on it for 30 minutes, otherwise she would have been burned.”

Photo: Courtesy of Clarins and Thierry Mugler

2006 Campaign Starring Bianca Balti

“Thierry had imagined a maze of mirrors that would be a sort of pool of water at the same time, so we built the whole set in New York, in one of those big studios near the pier on 16th Street. She’s wearing the same dress that Amy Wesson was wearing a few campaigns earlier, except that we had made it lighter by removing some of the sequins and crystals. You actually don’t see her directly in the picture, just her reflection in the mirror. That’s what Thierry was interested in capturing in the image — narcissism.”

Photo: Courtesy of Clarins and Thierry Mugler

2008 Campaign Starring Naomi Watts

“We met Naomi in Milan for a fitting in December before the shoot. I went with Mr. Pearl because he’s a maniac and he takes an average of 85 measurements. Then about a month before the shoot I had to do another fitting with Naomi; this time she was in New Zealand. So I flew to New Zealand and found she had put on a bit of weight. When I got back to Paris, I told Mr. Pearl about it, then when we went back to Los Angeles for the shoot, again it happened that the dress seemed too small. Naomi said nothing; we sort of made do. We found out months later that she was actually pregnant during the shoot.”

Photo: Courtesy of Clarins and Thierry Mugler

2011 Campaign Starring Eva Mendes

“The ad was shot by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin in New York. Eva is nothing like Naomi at all. Naomi is really an actress who does a little modeling, while Eva is a professional of her own body with an immense knowledge of how to look and what suits her best, so it goes really fast with people like her. On the shoot, she was dancing and extremely energetic. We’re so used to photo shoots that last for days, but we shot her in three to four hours.”

Thierry Mugler’s Twentieth-Anniversary Editions

To commemorate the anniversary, the fragrance house has taken three of their fragrances — Alien, A*Men, and Angel — and aged them in leather tanks to create richer, deeper versions of the scents. The rawhide is a nod to the corsetry and S&M-inspiration behind so many of Mugler’s collections. ALIEN Fragrance of Leather, A*MEN Pure Leather, ANGEL Fragrance of Leather, $88 each, Thierry Mugler

The Secrets Behind Thierry Mugler’s Angel Ads