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Alexis Mabille: In his program notes Alexis Mabille claimed to be dressing a gaggle of fun-loving, unconventional characters who populate an artsy alternative school. He does in fact offer an alternative take on haute couture, one that banishes stuffiness and staid propriety in favor of an attitude that’s fresh, young and sportif. It’s a vision in which couture and ready-to-wear comingle proudly, blissfully mindless of any old-fashioned fashion caste system.

Yet as for that unconventional claim, that’s where Mabille really makes hay or HEY. In truth, he doesn’t reject convention; he embraces it, starting with traditional notions of French chic. His runway ran rampant with it. He just expresses it with moments of willful irreverence. Take a singular idea, the drop-waist shirtdress. He rendered it cut lean and dark, with pleated schoolgirl propriety, in an artsy black sack rendition, and as an out-there clownish pink polo. He tinkered as well with tuxedo and military motifs, while showing fabulous pants both slouchy and lean, and what may be the only young-looking caftan this side of a Talitha Getty photo. In short, Mabille seems to be just what couture needs: a young, informed talent who doesn’t let his deep respect for the milieu get in the way of a good look.

Anne Valérie Hash: With an offering of 16 outfits, Anne Valérie Hash boiled down her haute vision to a concise essence that the designer said was inspired by the “vegetal realm.” It translated into some very pretty fare, especially a dress with a petal-like sleeve, and delicate sculptural pleating effects on crepe dresses that subtly evoked the folds on a flower. Equally fetching was a dress of translucent lace and organza panels. Hash’s talent lies in making clothes with sensual flair. A long black dress with a plunging neckline was a case in point — it looked sexy without being vulgar. Hash added a bit of drama to the mix with oversize jewelry from Naomi Filmer. But in the couture world of big effects and theatrical gestures, Hash’s arty approach, though quite enchanting, felt a bit timid.

Stéphane Rolland: Now in his third solo season, Stéphane Rolland has established a look based on spangles and flounces tempered with “Dynasty”-style glamour. This couture outing, he explored volume, massed sequins on the shoulders of a dress or a jacket and even a Goth moment done up with more sequins. It was more flash than dash.

This story first appeared in the July 1, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.


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