The hall of fame
Top designer Thierry Mugler invites Kavita Daswani to an exclusive shoot with
Even staff at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, well-accustomed to celebrities cruising through its corridors, had never seen anything quite like it.
Towering above six foot, her honey-blonde hair cascading in curls from the crown of her head or swept to one side down a slender shoulder, Texan supermodel Jerry Hall was spilling out of her couture Thierry Mugler dress.
The pink sheath - one of four elaborate gowns she was modelling - encased her curvy frame like a plumed cocoon as she leant against a pillar at one end of the indoor Grecian-style pool, posed in front of a Chinoiserie screen or gazed out at the view from the Pierrot restaurant.
Around her were a dozen minions - adjusting a long black cape here, spraying her coiffure there - as Hall consummately played the diva. As she and her entourage moved from one part of the hotel to another, they attracted the fascination of staff and guests: she may not be the face of the 1990s, but Hall remains a head-turner.
The celebrity model was in town last week as the muse of French designer Thierry Mugler, who opened his first boutique in Hong Kong in conjunction with Lane Crawford. Along with Mugler president Didier Grumbach and the designer's closest assistants, Hall was spending the day in her sometime, semi-official role.
A photo-call was part of the deal, but in the typically eclectic style of the design house, Mugler had decreed that only pieces from his haute-couture collection - which debuted in Paris this January - would be modelled by the statuesque siren.
Indeed, conceded Mugler's spokespeople, these were not ordinary dresses for ordinary women, nor were they in any way representative of fashion's current dalliance with softness and romance.
Which may go some way to explaining why Hall looks as if she was born to wear them. The razor-sharp cuts, corset-tight waistlines and sharply-dropping necklines - all elements of second-skin stylistics that were softened with feathers, sequins and fluid cords of jet beads.
'I just love these,' said Hall, running her fingers through trickles of beads that were suspended from a black evening dress, in an accent that was not quite definable and contained only a hint of a Texan drawl.
'Thierry's clothes are so fabulous to wear, the way they are cut and the way they fit.' Hall, now 41, and Mugler have been friends for many years, a likely pairing of creator and muse.
She confesses to being an all-out glamour girl - no jeans and T-shirts for her - and says she 'always like to dress up'.
Mugler himself is the antithesis of the fashion world's current purveyors of minimalism and understated dressing. He takes his inspiration from sexual fetishism, science fiction, Hollywood glamour and political history.
Geometrical influences, dominatrix fantasies and members of the insect world have materialised in his collections - emerging even in his younger and more casual MTM diffusion line. They are bizarre, almost surreal sartorial specimens - and Hall, with her blood-red lips, dramatic frame and contrived sexuality is perfect for them. Lesser models would drown in Mugler's extravagance.
Hall's business affiliation with Mugler - which began in 1995 when he suggested she represent his successful Angel fragrances - is but one of the Texan's many enterprises.
The wife of Rolling Stone rocker Mick Jagger, with whom she has three children, says acting follows a close second to her love of modelling.
In any event, she has become a multi-million dollar one-woman enterprise, lending her famous face and name to commercials for unlikely products including Bovril chicken paste and Mars bars, to movies of negligible value like Vampire in Brooklyn with Eddie Murphy and RPM with Dolph Lundgren. She caused a stir last year when she posed nude for British Vogue - a stint that earned her GBP75,000 (about HK$941,000).
'The money's great,' she said, in disarming understatement.
'Things are a lot better for models these days than when I was first starting out,' she said.
'I really enjoy acting and the movies but I don't get a chance to do too much of it because it would take me away from home for long stretches of time and I want to be near my children.' Indeed, Hall and Jagger's offspring, Elizabeth Scarlett, 13, James Leroy, 11, and Georgia May who is only five, are the soul of Hall's life.
The family home is in Richmond, but Jagger and Hall also own homes in France, the US and the Caribbean. She has just spent a month with her family in Texas, calls them everyday when on the road, and is soon to share the catwalk with her eldest child at the behest of Mugler.
Hall grew up in humble surroundings in Gonzales, Texas, where she remembers being enamoured by Hollywood glamour girls. At 16, she left home for Paris where she began modelling; her mother had hoped that the young, wayward Hall would eventually come to her senses and return to Texas and a normal college life.
But catwalk and photographic modelling success came quickly for the pouting, blonde beauty, who concedes that she has been living her dream.
'That's why I believe I should not just take and have to give something back to society,' she said, adding that she is involved with a US-based charity called Time for Peace which teaches children about world peace.
'It's one way for me to thank my lucky stars,' she said.
Photographer: Ringo Tang Stylist: Caroline Nie Hair and makeup: Il Colpo Shoot: Courtesy of the Mandarin Oriental