On a drizzly January day in Paris, a grinning Alexis Mabille bounds into his newly acquired atelier and pours out a plate of M&M’s. It’s certainly a sweet moment for this French designer, still reveling in the glow of his triumphant runway debut and clutching a fresh order for high-waist capri pants from one Dita Von Teese.
“I’m still reeling,” says Mabille, 31, who, with his dandy countenance, Tom Thumb stature and thick mane of unruly black hair, could have walked straight off the set of Dangerous Liaisons.
Until now, the young eccentric has been best known for his über flamboyant line of bow ties, called Treizeor, of which Karl Lagerfeld and Mick Jagger are said to be fans. Prior to staging his first catwalk show as a guest member of the official couture schedule, Mabille spent years quietly honing his clothing skills on made-to-measure orders for private clients, including Sofia Coppola and her boyfriend, Thomas Mars, lead singer of the French band Phoenix.
The approach paid off, propelling Mabille onto the international fashion radar. His charming and sophisticated show, held at the rococo tearoom Angelina—its foyer dotted with silver trays of macaroons displayed on counters—had everyone wanting a slice of Mabille.
“I was quite surprised at the quality of the show,” says photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino, who has known Mabille for years. “I see him as part of a new wave of young French creatives.” Mondino even hails Mabille’s collection of ingeniously detailed upscale basics as emblematic of a renaissance of Gallic style.
Mabille, however, says his inspirations are more Studio 54 than Saint Germain. “I’m very influenced by American fashion from the Halston period, the idea of a casual kind of glamour. There’s always this notion of sportswear at play,” he says at his studio, gesturing to a drop-waist baby pink gown that was, in fact, inspired by a men’s shirt.
All the while the radio is blaring, and in the background Mabille’s willowy Dutch muse-cum-manager, Myrthe Mabille, glides about the room decked out in a burgundy grandpa sweater and a pair of mannish Katharine Hepburn–esque pants. Mabille met Myrthe more than a decade ago, when she modeled for him in a fashion show while he was a student at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture in Paris. Subsequently, she married his brother, Martin. “We go back a long way. It’s all a bit Little House on the Prairie around here,” jokes Mabille, hopping up to show other fashion treats, including a layered organza minidress, its hem piped with a line of slanted bows like dormant propellers. Yet another bow-covered extravaganza, this one in billowing organza, was inspired by a generic hoodie and looks suited to a modern Little Red Riding Hood. Clearly, he’s a tad bow-obsessed. In his show, which included both couture and ready-to-wear, he gave the motif a charming workout, even scattering bows throughout the models’ tousled manes.