Most people have heard of this infallible woman because of an iconic song her band recorded that rendered them a number one hit. Some have heard of her because of the iconic look she created for herself, subsequently effecting the current 90s revival that has taken over the music and fashion industries. Others, however, know her because she is the true definition of what it means to be a “forever icon.”
I’m talking about legendary Kierin Magenta Kirby, better known by her stage name Lady Miss Kier, the music industries original first “lady.” Kier was the lead vocalist and creative director for good vibe inducing, deee-lightfult and deee-lovely, electro-dance pop band Deee-Lite.
Best known for “Groove is in the Heart”, an enormous hit in 1990 and beyond, Kier and the rest of Deee-Lite instantly became New York music royalty. Their work was set against the backdrop of a New York City that had the most incredible amount of gritty integrity offered by authentic artists, performers and designers who broke conventional rules of gender, sex and overall appeal. Deee-Lite brushed shoulders with the likes of Club Kids Michael Alig and James St. James, fellow icons like Diane Brill and RuPaul, and fashion designers like the wildly important Thierry Mugler, who instantly gravitated towards Kier and her distinctive style.
Kier moved to New York City in 1982 at the age of 19 to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, studying textile and fashion design. Kier go-go danced in nightclubs to support herself financially, which lead her to meet Ukrainian expatriate DJ Dmitry Brill. Brill would eventually place an order for silver platform boots and a glittery, blue spacesuit for performing in from Kier. The two hit it off, so much so they began dating, and with the addition of Japanese DJ Towa Tei, formed Deee-Lite.
Kier developed her look in a remarkable way that made her stand out from her peers. With her flaming red bouffant, often coifed in a short, elongated bob, and dramatic triple layer cat eye, Kier was highly distinguishable. Not to mention the revival of 60s and 70s trends that greatly mirrored Dee-Lites funky disco beats. Groovy flower power prints, John Lennon-esque sunglasses, flared pants, iconic Fluevog platform heels and the most ostentatiously bright Emilio Pucci jumpsuits all contributed to Kier’s aura. But perhaps the most important aspect of her look was the thick, 60s inspired Bridget Bardot like headband that you see Kier wearing in almost every picture, which inspired a craze of copycats from Chanel to Clueless.
Thierry Mugler began his journey as one of the most important and dramatic designers in 1973 when he presented his first collection dubbed “Café de Paris” which drew inspiration from the café society of Paris. His clothing garnered much attention and admiration for their cut and sophistication, which was typically shown in two pieces, such as a skirt or pant suit. His work was consistently ahead of it’s time, frequently pushing into boundaries of sexual and social extravagance that had been previously uncharted by other designers.
Mugler’s women were often presented as severe caricatures of Hollywood vixens with a flair for the dramatic. Often combining that idea with a futuristic edge, the clothing had a corseted severity with dangerously exaggerated curves that elevated his work from prêt-à-porter to haute couture. The Chambre syndicale de la haute couture, which governs haute couture in France, asked Mugler to complete his first couture collection in 1992. His work as a freelance designer in the 70s delivered to him an abundance of success and he and his contemporaries, Claude Montana and Azzedine Alaïa, ruled the look of the 80s and early to mid-90s.
It’s really no wonder that Mugler and Kier were a match made in music meets fashion heaven. On August 7, 1990, Deee-Lite released their first studio album, World Clique. As summer collections are shown a year in advance, Mugler had the perfect opportunity to use music from Deee-Lite’s first album at his September 1990 Spring/Summer 1991 show. The show opened with Kier cooing over the backbeat of “What is Love?” The song is so irritatingly perfect for a fashion show, with its faux-French babbling and chic, onslaught of “ooh-la-la’s” that the show was instantly elevated to that of fashion spectacle.
Over the speakers came Kier, proclaiming her love of Mugler, stating “I love Paris, but unfortunately, I’m stuck in New York traffic.” The clothing was equally coy. The most coveted models, Iman, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell, graced the runway wearing the chicest, most incredibly fitted army fatigue corsets. Some models had whip stitched, corseted safari jackets that were worn with tight, PVC like spandex pants. The girls paraded down the runway to Kier exclaiming, “Mmmm how do you say? / Deee-licious, deee-loveley / Deee-lectable, deee-vine? / How do you say? / Deee-gorgeous? / Deee-with it? / Deee-groovy? / Deee-vine?” almost as if asking the audience how to speak the chicest of French.
Again on March 13, 1991, the fashion world got another whiff of Deee-Lite and Lady Miss Kier. This time, however, Kier in addition to DJ Dmitry took to the runway for Mugler’s Fall/Winter 1991 show. Kier modeled one of the most ironic dresses Mugler ever created and what can only be described by modern standards as a “Furby” dress. Featuring two giant eyes that Kier controlled by pulling a lever, probably sewn into the corset of the garment, she had the capability to make the dress blink and wink at the audience. It was really brought to life, however, by the smoking lips purse that she carried with great enthusiasm.
Spring/Summer 1992 also included songs mixed exclusively for Mugler, like “Pussycat Meow”, which was from the bands upcoming second album Infinity Within, which would later be released on June 23, 1992. The song had a strong sexual undertone with Kier repeating “Pussycat, pussycat, pussycat, no! Pussycat, pussycat, pussycat ooh!” Deee-Lite said they were inspired by Mugler’s partial inspiration from the world of the Wild West and his infatuation with cowgirls, who made a number of appearances by way of tightly corseted, fringed out models. Kier and DJ Dmitry enacted the tease between two lovers perfectly on the runway, dancing and leading each other on in the chicest way possible, elevating their black, corseted looks to that of a musical performance on the runway.
Mugler and Kier continued a close relationship. Mugler continued to use Deee-Lite’s music on the runway and Kier continued to wear Mugler, most prominently in the music video for “Good Beat”, a song that literally forces it’s listener onto the dance floor, wherever that may be. And if the idea of a forever icon is someone that transcends both trends and time, then both Mugler and Kier were not only ahead of their time, but two creative geniuses that epitomize the ideals of a forever icon. Two people who always had a good beat in their head and groove placed firmly in their hearts.