Casey Cadwallader
Casey Cadwallader (Photo: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images)

As an American at the helm of a storied label, Mugler’s creative director Casey Cadwallader has championed inclusivity with a refreshing mix of body shapes and gender identities in his clothing. Cadwallader is reconnecting the brand to contemporary culture, a shift made incredibly noticeable when Cardi B attended his first show. Then she cracked open Mugler’s archive, wearing its Fall 1995 dress inspired by Botticelli’s Birth of Venus on the red carpet of the 2019 Grammy Awards. Next Kim Kardashian wore custom (and campy) Mugler to the 2019 Met Gala. Following this precedent, the Mugler Spring 2021 show took place on International Trans Day of Visibility, with Euphoria‘s Hunter Schafer and Dominique Jackson of Pose absolutely owning the runway in sheer, gloriously figure-hugging Mugler get-up. But as Cadwallader told GRAZIA, this is all in a day’s work.

“The decisions that you make as a creative designer is about how you should show the world beauty and what you choose to curate to show people and who you choose to represent the brand,” Cadwallader told GRAZIA. “It can be so influential and can open people’s minds and really make people feel a part of something and make them feel like they’re not alone. Even this brand in Paris is ready for others to embrace them and wants all different types of individuals to feel at home with them. I think that’s something Mr. Mugler really created. It was a place of acceptance, it was a place of open-mindedness, it was a place where you could shine, where you could be your best and you knew you were welcome.”

Cadwallader understood very early on the weight of his responsibility but reveled in the chance to build his own world. “I realized that by making good choices my work life would be so fulfilling and so rich and so exciting for me. It really comes naturally choosing to work with models who don’t have the old idea of classical bodies—super tall, super skinny with no breasts—all of that is fine and can be very beautiful, but a woman who happens to be a little shorter who has large breasts or a big curvy butt and is not a size 36 but a size 46 can be just as strong and beautiful. By making the decisions that really come from my gut and stick with what I feel is right, I think I’ve been able to make people feel very welcome and really appreciated and make a lot of people feel very beautiful who didn’t think necessarily that fashion was there for them. I really want to show that Mugler is there for everybody.”

Because we could — see based on the now-viral clips of the show — how much it resonated with viewers online; we were curious about Cadwallader’s response to the response. “When I sit back and watch the show I think you realize that all of those people feel so excited to be part of that show. When I get backstage, when the runway is over, everyone is crying and screaming and so excited because there is such a real strong positive energy and a sense of being a part of it. I remember when I was younger being at fashion shows where all of the models were 17 years old and weren’t eating properly and everyone backstage was just exhausted and there was no positive energy, everyone was in a rut going to the next show. It’s really beautiful to be able to create an environment where everyone is really excited to be part of it and it means something to them and they know it means something to the audience.”