A chat with Ann-Sofie Johansson and Casey Cadwallader on the upcoming H&M x Mugler Global Launch

A year filled with H&M collaboration is a year worth celebrating, particularly for fashion enthusiasts who can appreciate gender-neutral collections that pay tribute to the past…

H&M collaborations—including those with Balmain, Marni, Lanvin to Iris Apfel—have always sounded very electrifying. The recently-dropped news about the collab with Mugler was, of course, no exception. The  partnership between H&M and Mugler—set to launch on May 11—celebrates freedom and self-expression. As told by H&M, the collection will extend the house of Mugler’s DNA to explore body positivity. The team-up will re-see some of Casey Cadwallader’s hit designs and archival pieces from the 1980s and 1990s by Manfred Thierry Mugler. So, fashion enthusiasts and fans of either brand can expect to see body-hugging pieces, deconstructed blazers, leather, see-through tops and so forth, all recreated to merge with modern days’ aesthetics. 

In light of this monumental partnership, DAMAN sat down for an exclusive interview with two key players: Ann-Sofie Johansson, the creative advisor of the Swedish mega-brand, and Casey Cadwallader from Mugler.

DAMAN: It’s always thrilling to hear about H&M’s collaborations. What factors did you consider before deciding on collaborating with Mugler?
Ann-Sofie Johansson: We have a constant wish-list of designers, and we keep a close eye on people who we think are making interesting work. We follow each one carefully and consider who is suited to the moment. Mugler just felt totally right for now. All of us at H&M have been really impressed with what Casey has created with his reinvigoration of the house and we have also been fascinated by the current global enthusiasm for ’80s and ’90s icons, and the way young people are looking to the past for inspiration. The house’s founder, Thierry Mugler, is obviously a big part of that. He is key to the flamboyance and excitement of that period: He set the agenda, just as Casey is doing now, by reinterpreting the house and its codes for a fresh generation. Casey has such a respect for the legacy of the brand, and for all that Mr. Mugler stood for: inclusivity, gender-fluidity, empowerment, body positivity and sexiness. He has made young people adore both his vision for the house and also the history of the house—which is an amazing thing to achieve. You can immediately identify a contemporary Mugler piece—the cut-outs, the spiralling jeans, the impeccable tailoring—and that’s a very hard thing to achieve as a designer. I think we couldn’t have wished to work with a better designer for this moment.

DA: How about you, Casey? Do you recall your first encounter with H&M? And how do you think has it impacted your decision to collaborate with them?
Casey Cadwallader: As Ann-Sofie said, I really grew up watching the H&M designer collaborations. So, I was so honored and thrilled to be asked. It’s an amazing list of past partnerships and it’s amazing to be included in that list and history. When building the collection, I thought a lot about the ethos of the H&M collaboration concept, which is about offering people something to collect, something that stands up in the history of fashion. I spent time looking at past collaborations, like the one Alber Elbaz did, which was so true to Lanvin in terms of the design of the pieces, and the ones with Versace and Margiela, which I actually bought pieces from at the time—and which, again, were really about offering people signature pieces. I drew a lot of inspiration from that idea. That’s the reason I was adamant that this had to be true Mugler—nothing compromised or watered down—and that’s why the collection is full of so many of our classics and runway signatures.


DA: Mugler is well-known for its boundary-pushing collections, particularly with regards to body positivity and gender issues. How do you integrate Mugler’s DNA into H&M’s designs?
ASJ: This collection is very much true Mugler. Mugler and Casey have been incredibly generous with many of their key pieces. And that’s always what we as H&M want to get, because our customers are so keen to get a piece of fashion history. Som I really enjoyed that process of watching Casey open up the Mugler archive and share it with us; it has been a very special journey for us all. And, as you say, the spirit of Mugler—which is about diversity, transformation, confidence and body positivity—is really central to the collection. Casey designed all the pieces to be shared across genders, if people choose, and there are so many special and unique ways to style and adapt the collection.

DA: Can you share some insight into the work that went on behind the scenes, particularly regarding working with Casey? Are there any interesting stories you’d like to share?
ASJ: It’s just been an incredibly fun process. I really enjoyed observing Casey’s eye for detail. The attention he pays to the architecture of the body and the way he uses seams and lines and details to accentuate the form is really incredible. One story that emerged that I found really touching was around how Casey could really remember the history of the H&M collaborations. He really admired them as a young person, when starting his journey into fashion. So, it was lovely to hear about that and to have things come full circle, with him designing one for us. 

DA: Can you tell us about the work ethic you brought to the table when designing for this collaboration. And how does it align with H&M’s brand values?
CC: I’ve found it really enjoyable and also a fascinating learning experience, working with H&M. Of course, I have brought a strong visual sense of what I wanted the collection to be and I was adamant about this being all about the true Mugler DNA. But that desire really fitted with H&M’s hopes and values when it comes to their partnerships. They want to offer their customer the very best and they are so smart with how they source things, and the way they choose and use materials, especially a lot of their recycled materials, which play a role in this collection. They know how to really add value for the customer. I’m thrilled that we can bring people Mugler pieces at such great price points. I truly hope these pieces become collectors’ items, but at the same time, I also can’t wait to see them worn and loved and enjoyed, on the street, or the dance floor or even online—wherever people choose—as Mugler is for everyone and anyone.

DA: Mugler has always been renowned for its inclusive fashion, tackling taboo issues early on. Do you view this partnership as a means to spread this message to a wider audience?
CC: I do think there is a shared ideology, between H&M and Mugler: An interest in inclusivity and in opening up great fashion, and a sense of empowerment through clothing, to a diverse range of people. The Mugler world has always been about inviting people in, and that’s what we are doing here. 

DA: Could you share some insight on the inspiration behind the collection, particularly for the menswear line? What can we find on your moodboard?
CC: As I said, a big inspiration came from the idea of offering people true Mugler signatures and staples. So, with the menswear you have a lot of the classic Mugler fabrications: Great leathers, including trousers, blazers and trenches, and then lots of denim including a great sculpted jacket with padding. We also have lots of tailoring, which can be layered with some of the more sensual, playful pieces in the collection, like see-through mesh tops, with our signature star print, or some of our corseted tanks.


DA: What type of man do you believe would be a good fit for this collection? And do you have any styling tips to share?
ASJ: I don’t think this collection is for any specific type of man; Mugler has always been very broad. That’s the beauty of the house: it welcomes people in. I think that it will attract a wide range of people. Young shoppers will be totally excited and I love the idea of original Mugler fans, from the ’80s and ’90s, also finding special pieces within the collection, and being able to remember and reminisce. In terms of styling, there are so many ways to wear the pieces. The leather and denim look amazing together, and many of the more casual pieces, like the hoodies, can be styled with smarter silhouettes like tailoring. Casey was very clever in including lots of layering pieces, like great mesh tops. I think people can have a lot of a fun playing with the pieces.

DA: Who are your male dream figures to represent the Mugler H&M collection?
CC: I truly see this collection as being for everyone, so there is no specific man in mind. I think you get that sense from the campaign. It’s a homage to community and to inclusivity. I think the collection will really come to life when it’s bought and worn and twisted into new ways. I’m so excited to look out for the pieces on the street and online and see how people have made them their own.

DA: Out of all the pieces in this collaboration, which ones are your favorites and which items do you believe are must-haves?
ASJ: There are just so many great pieces within the range! Personally, I love the leather pieces. You’d treasure them forever. And I love the denim spiral jeans, just because they really are a Casey signature—something he invented. They are so beautifully made and meticulous when it comes to shape and angle; you can tell he studied architecture as they totally enhance and empower the body—lifting, shaping and making it super sculptural. Talking of architecture, the jewelry is also very special and very sculptural—really bold and unapologetic and it can be worn across genders, like many pieces in the collection, which is great. I do hope people are very excited about the inclusion of archive remakes, just because it feels very special to be able to access ’80s and ’90s Mugler designs today, like the amazing acid green shirt, that was worn by Bowie. They are pieces that belong in museums, but we are lucky enough to open them up to our customers. 

Scroll down for highlights from the H&M x Mugler runway presentation: