With the passing of French fashion designer Thierry Mugler, we look back at one of his favorite muses—Filipina supermodel Anna Bayle.
Living in the age of excess was an entirely different world back in the 80s, especially with fashion. Coming from a third world country, making a name in a place that was dominated only by white women seemed farfetched. This is the story of tenacious talent, Anna Bayle. You see, she had just lost her job in retail and headed to Europe, coming to the point of no return until she was a star.
Standing at 5’10” with her morena beauty and signature long black hair, Paris was her golden ticket, and soon after, she was discovered by French visionary and acclaimed designer, the late Thierry Mugler. As Anna shared in her blog back in 2008, “the French fashion people are very different; they want to discover beauties. Their idea of beauty is also quite different. When Thierry Mugler hired me for my first and only press show, I was immediately plucked from obscurity and put beside the big stars.” It was the age of pomp and pageantry in fashion and only the models who had the flair for theatrics landed the job. Anna Bayle stood out and immediately became one of Mugler’s favorite muses.
THE FIRST ASIAN SUPERMODEL
The designer was applauded during his heyday not only for his impeccable techniques and shows that married pop culture and glamour. Mugler was a staunch advocate of casting models, holding the line for diversity, especially at a time when colorism in the industry was severe. In a podcast interview with Tim Blanks where they talked about his muses, he shared that most of them look like “they were dropped from another planet.” Anna Bayle fit the bill and he photographed her for most of his campaigns, with the most memorable to be her standing on an iceberg in heels. She walked for most of his shows, becoming one of the models that defined the 80s along with the ranks of Iman and Jerry Hall.
It wasn’t long until Anna Bayle rightfully earned the title, The First Asian Supermodel. She was doing nine shows a day back when others only had one, becoming the darling of the fashion greats like Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, and of course, the designer close to her heart, Thierry Mugler. Anna understood that he paved the way for her, recalling that he liked to help people see their potential. “I want my models to be bigger, stronger, and taller than common mortals,” he once said. To think that her only background in fashion was in retail after having her pre-med at the University of the Philippines, Mugler knew that Anna was bound to be a star.
“Everyone was in love with him in a ‘creative collaboration’ sense. He could seduce everyone from the make-up and hair people to us models. He had a knack of getting everyone around him to give their ‘body and soul’ to his collection,” she detailed in her blog. Anna Bayle was transformed by Mugler in many ways before her retirement in 1994: a mythical sea creature, an angel, a goddess, an empress. If he was able to give that space to a Filipina who once dreamed big, then anything was possible for the dreamers that came after. And this persistence of possibility inspired by his evocative work continues to this day.
Thierry Mugler knew the power that every woman was capable of, especially in the case of Anna Bayle. Until the very end, he was still enthralled with his art, designing for the likes of Beyoncé, Cardi B, and Kim Kardashian, who he described as “love at first sight.” It’s the same creative force and unapologetic vision that led him to becoming one of the most legendary fashion designers that ever walked the earth. And just like that, his magic will be missed, but certainly not forgotten. For because of the legacy of Thierry Mugler, we too can be bigger, stronger, and taller than we thought was possible.