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Bowling In

The spring couture season brought with it an unexpected but very welcome surprise: a terrific collection from potential star Alexis Mabille that mixed...

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The spring couture season brought with it an unexpected but very welcome surprise: a terrific collection from potential star Alexis Mabille that mixed couture with ready-to-wear looks. Mabille’s boy-meets-girl styles included a variety of distinctively detailed shirtdresses and jeans with roses at the sides. Here, one of his singular sensations: a blouse with a row of bows worn with wide cuffed pants.

This Paris Fashion Week may be devoted to the couture, but there’s some appealing ready-to-wear on show, too. Cathy Pill offered ladylike looks, while Alexis Mabille’s mix of couture and rtw was a bow-tie-bedecked romp.

Alexis Mabille: One of fashion’s great joys is the thrill of discovery, happening upon a fresh talent with star potential. Given the delightful collection he showed on Thursday morning, Alexis Mabille offers such promise by the bushel. Not that he’s been hiding under a rock. Mabille, 31, is well known in Paris fashion circles. He spent 10 years at Christian Dior before moving to Yves Saint Laurent, where he still works on the costume jewelry. He broke out on his own in 2005, first with a collection of pants and, later, bow ties, attracting a fancy client list that included Karl Lagerfeld and Mick Jagger.

For his show, a mix of ready-to-wear and haute couture, Mabille’s program notes proclaimed, “No season, no reason.” But that bon mot is only half right. Transseasonal these clothes may be, but they definitely have a reason: to infuse luxury with a buoyant sportswear spirit. Mabille showed at Angelina’s tearoom, and the first look out was a pink pastry of a coat completely covered with organza bows and worn by German soprano Calixta Biron von Curland. She sang throughout the presentation, mixing opera snippets with lines of poetry and the occasional interjection of “noeud papillons! [bow ties!]” or “Alexis Mabille!”

Delightful though she looked, her froth proved something of an aberration. Mabille’s real starting point was bourgeois basics — walking shorts, mannish trousers, a shirtdress, a shift — which he took somewhere decidedly different yet with enough familiarity to attract an immediate clientele. (He showed unisex and men’s looks as well, though the latter seems a tad more limited than the women’s clothes.) For example, he prettied up Western wear by ruffling the yoke of a cowboy shirt and sprinkling satin rose buds on the side of a pair of jeans, and he worked the shirtdress motif every which way — dropping the waist; adding flyaway pleats or a lace medallion in back. As for those bow ties, he worked them in wisely, not only as hair and handbag decoration, but angled into precision borders on the clothes and crafting the shape into the bodices of gorgeous, simple evening columns. It all made for a mood of sophisticated charm; one could even call it a bow coup.

Cathy Pill: Belgian designer Cathy Pill paired feminine favorites, such as womanly pencil skirts, with pieces in prints, and offered scintillating floor-length dresses as part of her fresh and polished collection.

Photos By Giovanni Giannoni

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