After Zendaya’s major Mugler moment, Swedish supermodel Emma Wiklund weighs in on wearing one of the original robot suits

By Josefin Forsberg

Zendaya wears the Machine Man suit from Mugler's autumn/winter '95 runway show. Photo: Getty

Last night, Zendaya shut down the sand carpet of the Dune: Part Two premiere wearing archival Mugler. Here, OG supermodel and robot suit veteran Emma Wiklund reminisces about being one of the first to wear a metal Mugler creation in 1990

Zendaya has developed quite the pedigree when it comes to red carpet fashion. Never too on-the-nose, her usual just off-the-runway looks manage to balance paying tribute to the film without veering towards fancy dress. For last night’s London premiere of Dune: Part Two, however, her choice was out-of-this-world.


Styled by Law Roach, Zendaya’s internet-breaking sci-fi suitable cyborg suit came courtesy of the Mugler Archives. The silver robot – nicknamed the ‘Machinenmensch’ (‘Machine Human’) – was created over a six month period in 1994 for the brand’s autumn/winter '95 show ‘Cirque d’hiver’.

Photo: Getty

But the look wasn’t the first of its kind. A hand-moulded bikini iteration graced the Mugler runway as early as 1990, worn by none other than Swedish supermodel Emma Wiklund (then Sjöberg) for the spring/summer '91 show. “It is made from metal and based on plaster moulds, so you couldn’t slouch or gain an ounce of weight or it would either fall down or not fit,” says Wiklund, who retired from modelling in 2000 and today owns Emma S, her eponymous beauty brand. “But it was worth every bruise.”

Photo: Provided by Emma Wiklund

Photo: Provided by Emma Wiklund

Photo: Provided by Emma Wiklund

Fittings for Wiklund’s original robot suits were rigorously frequent. While you’d usually do a fitting a week before a normal show, at Mugler, you spent weeks and weeks in his atelier perfecting the look,” Wiklund explains. The hand-moulded robot suit made for Mugler’s spring/summer '91 collection in particular called for Wiklund to spend “hours in the fitting room,” she recalls. Over 12 fittings, Wiklund was tight-laced into a wasp waist and covered with plaster; the metal bustier and short-shorts were crafted in minute detail from chrome.

It made you move like a robot, you were very restricted – just like Zendaya last night.

Emma Wiklund

When recollecting what it was like wearing a Mugler metal creation, Wiklund describes the “metal chastity belt” in a rigid chrome metal. “It wasn’t exactly comfortable,” she laughs. “But you didn’t wear it for long, just down the runway.” But walking in that look was a truly unique experience. “It made you move like a robot, you were very restricted – just like Zendaya last night,” says Wiklund. “It is not the look to make any sudden movements in.”

Emma Wiklund wears the chrome bikini robot suit from Mugler's spring/summer 1991 runway show

Photo: Getty

Zendaya resurrecting an old runway piece – one that has most likely not been worn since it stepped off the runway – is part of a vintage-led red carpet movement. In fact, archival pieces hitting the red carpet circuit is predicted to be a defining trend for 2024. “It just makes me so happy to see old pieces be given new life,” says Wiklund. “I remember when Beyoncé wore the Mugler motorcycle look back in 2009 that I wore for Geroge Michael’s music video for Too Funky. It is a special feeling to see it in the limelight again.”

So considering the surge of vintage looks on the red carpet, what are Wiklund’s pro-tips for other celebrities itching to wear a Mugler metal suit? “Vaselin, bruise relief cream,” she says. And, just Zendaya swiftly switched out her robot look for a modern black Mugler gown last night, Wiklund recommends “a quick change”.