Thierry Mugler's Angel Perfume Celebrates 20 Years in the US: A Look Back at the Scent and the Fashion Behind It

Thierry Mugler has always been known as a creative revolutionary in the fashion world, and when he launched his first fragrance, Angel, 20 years ago, it was a completely shocking concept in many ways. From the weird scent to the crazy ad campaigns (and the fashion that inspired them), take a walk down memory lane with us to celebrate Angel's 20th anniversary in the US.
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Thierry Mugler has always been known as a creative revolutionary in the fashion world, and when he launched his first fragrance, Angel, 20 years ago, it was a completely shocking concept in many ways. From the weird scent to the crazy ad campaigns (and the fashion that inspired them), take a walk down memory lane with us to celebrate Angel's 20th anniversary in the US.
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Today Mugler is showing its fall 2013 collection, and it will undoubtedly be a visual feast for the eyes. Thanks to some strong DNA, a Mugler show is always memorable. Thierry Mugler (who no longer designs for the label--Nicola Formichetti has those duties, now) has always been known as a creative revolutionary in the fashion world, and he extended that to his first perfume, too. When he launched his first fragrance, Angel, 20 years ago, it was a completely shocking concept in many ways.

Angel launched amidst a crowd of perfumes that had an 80s mentality—Opium, Obsession, Tresor, Shalimar. They were basically the olfactory equivalent of huge padded shoulders. Then Angel, the first ever oriental gourmand fragrance came along and it was a game changer. “I always wanted to make a perfume which would have the same resonance for everyone...and I wanted there to be such a sensual contact with this perfume, that you almost feel like devouring the person you love,” Mugler said recently.

The Clarins group, which produces Angel, is proud of the unusual notes Mugler brings to its fragrances. At a lunch with Mugler perfumer Pierre Aulas in Paris (I was there for a little brand immersion), he mentioned that the company had been working with Lady Gaga on her fragrance before she decided to go with Coty for her perfectly nice fruity floral fragrance, Fame. Aulas's message to Gaga? "We would have given her blood and semen!" But anyway... Angel, the first of Thierry Mugler’s four fragrances (the others are Alien, A*Men, Womanity) has notes of patchouli, which are then layered over sweet notes of praline, caramel, and vanilla. As if that wasn’t weird enough, they made the juice blue, then stuck it into a star shaped bottle that was next to impossible to design, and then once they designed it, was ridiculously expensive to produce. The most shocking thing of all? Mugler decided to make Angel refillable, because he thought the star-shaped bottle was too beautiful to throw away, not to mention it was really expensive to re-purchase, thanks to the complicated design.

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Véra Strubi, who developed the original Angel with Thierry Mugler, told us that very few retailers wanted any part of the weirdness. “Retailers hated the concept,” she said. But women loved it, and Angel garnered a loyal following.

The refillable concept, called "The Source," was, and still is, popular--not to mention 30-40% cheaper than buying a brand new bottle. To put it into perspective, someone refills their bottle of Angel every 10 seconds, according to the company. To update the concept, this March a new Source will launch at Sephora, along with a ton of promotions like limited edition eco-friendly empty bottles and lots of sampling options, so keep an eye out if you're a fan.

Thierry Mugler's fashion was always very much a part of the Angel aesthetic, and Mugler's right hand man and current image director for the brand, Christophe de Lataillade, said that the star bottle was based on a favorite motif of Mugler, and he used it in many runway shows in the 80s.

Click through to see 20 years of Angel ad campaigns, some of the dresses that inspired them, and the ridiculous things that happened during the shoots. And do yourself a favor and go look at some old footage of classic Mugler shows (for which the designer used to charge admission!), featuring many of the original supers, here.