Alexis Mabille has been on the fashion calendar since 2008, albeit in the rarefied world of haute couture rather than the packed March and October womenswear schedule. Prior to that, he worked with Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, just to establish his couture pedigree. Hence, we weren't quite sure what to expect from his first ready-to-wear outing.
That heritage is perhaps key to the collection he showed for S/S 2011. Mabille began with a rather old-fashioned idea of what ready-to-wear should be - in his mind, it's the watered-down fifties boutique garments created by the likes of Dior to sell alongside, rather than instead of, haute couture creations - perhaps for a visit to the seaside, say, that wouldn't warrant a full couture make-over. The seaside was his theme, and the clothes were in that easy vein. Well, easy for Mabille: for many other designers the idea of a cotton dress quilted, embroidered with chevrons and ruffled in broiderie anglaise would be classed as complex, but it was one of the easier to understand efforts at Mabille's show. He also got stuck on the idea of les blue jeans - Yves Saint Laurent once said he wished he'd designed them, so Mabille figured he'd take a pop, tricking them out with high-waists, straight-legs and lots of ruffles.
This may sound slightly cliche, but there were some beautiful pieces, especially when Mabille restrained himself from getting too carried away with his urge to boost the sugar-content of his clothes. Then again, his gist is saccharine femininity: ruffles, lace, and lots and lots of bows. The latter is indeed a house speciality - they even popped up in that utilitarian daywear, knotted at the back of a skirt or set in a row to form a tuxedo ruffle on a safari dress. But for the evening segment of the show, they came trussed around everything, from a chambray fishtail gown, to rhinestone chandelier earrings, to a mini-skirted bride with knotted duchesse-satin shirt. It was all a little heavy, bloating and sleep-inducing, like gorging on a banquet of French pastries. Certain factions will rejoice in the opportunity to fully indulge their sweet tooth. Mot of us, however, won't be able to stomach this kind of excess.