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The Globe and Mail

Mabille's couture show falls on the crazy side of fairy-tale style

Models present creations by French designer Alexis Mabille during the Fall/Winter 2011-2012 Haute Couture collection show on July 4, 2011 in Paris.


Style reporter Amy Verner is covering the major shows at Paris Couture Fashion Week this week. Follow her on Twitter @amyverner.


The Designer

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Before the show, someone expressed that Alexis Mabille is like J.Crew for people who have money. It's not entirely an accurate analogy as the young designer goes for far more drama than blinged-up chinos. And judging solely on his couture show today, he has far more fantastical visions than luxe leisure wear.

The Show

The room, within the Théâtre du Châtelet, was probably quite grand but everyone was too hot too notice (incidentally, the adjacent room was labelled Salon de Glaces, or Ice Room). Prior to the show, a soundtrack of chirping birds drowned out pre-show chitchat.

The Statement

The show notes referred to the theme as "couture fable" but really, it was more like Mabille's menagerie. The gowns - because there were few day looks - all took cues from animals. Think grasshopper, ant, black wolf (with shoulders encrusted in Swarovski crystal "fangs"), fox (complete with fur sleeves and sash) and so forth until the final 18th fauna interpretation: a poufy, sparkly green frock that evoked a frog. Surprisingly, the most elegant look - a morning jacket atop a white crepe sheath - was not even a penguin but a magpie.

The Effect

One's likelihood of appreciating the collection is entirely contingent on viewing it not as a couture version of Garanimals costumes, but as a whimsical conceit that allowed Mabille to spread his wings and let his imagination soar.

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The Takeaway

The moral to Mabille's fable is that it's a big risk to reverse-anthropomorphize clothing without it coming across as a gimmick. He made a valiant attempt; the black and bejewelled raven could appear on a red carpet, and the eagle had its sculptural strengths. But a frog dress will not a princess make.

Amy Verner live from Couture Fashion Week in Paris

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