A forerunner of the original French Couture, a full member of the Fédération française de la Couture, presenting four collections a year at Paris fashion weeks, Alexis Mabille tells us about his story, passion and inspirations. Graphic art by Karina Escher.
1. When did your fashion adventure start and how did you arrive where you are now?
It started long time ago. When I was a kid, I was already interested in making cloths. I was growing in Provence [region in the southeast of France] in a quite creative atmosphere. In my family there were many decorators and painters, thus I started with making different sorts of decorations for the events, my creations were always turning around textile. I moved to Paris and graduated from the Fashion School of The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 1997. Right after I entered the big houses. I stated to work for Dior, after which had internships at Nina Ricci and Ungaro. Finally, in 2005 I left LVMH group to launch my own brand.
2. You were in the couture from the very beginning?
Not at all! I started with ready-to-wear. We designed pans and shirts in a unisex style with the same fitting for both men and women. I liked the idea to create men cloths of the fabrics that are traditionally considered feminine. And vice versa: give to women’s wear men’s structure and cut. We have been developing this concept until 2008 when we first participated in the calendar of the couture week but with a ready-to-wear twist. From that moment I started to create more feminine evening gowns.
3. What does the world of high fashion represent for you?
So many things at the same time! Foremost it is all about the know-how, the unique techniques and the possibility to make an exceptional cloth without counting the work-hours spent on it. Couture is also about extraordinary people, artisans who, thanks to their energy and devotion, create the most beautiful garments in the world. Garments which even being perfectly wearable represent much more than a simple piece of cloth. We are here to accompany our client in creating her made-to-measure wardrobe and to enhance her natural beauty and elegance.
4. How does Alexis Mabille’s égérie (Muse) look like?
She is free, strong and independent from one hand and perky, flirty and a little bit borderline from the other. I like such kind of personality who possesses a certain level of an individual culture. Assuming her demons with an elegance. It is all about education: if a woman is well educated, even the most borderline things she transforms into a supreme chic.
5. Who are your clients ?
Among the women I dress, there are very different personalities. What do they have in common? They want to be unique, they are looking for the exclusivity which can only provide the haute couture. They come to my Fashion House for something specific, pieces which could not be found elsewhere, that highlight their strongest points of beauty and character. If my client buys couture cloths, she is sure that she will never cross a woman in the same dress at any social event she attends.
6. What do you think about all these anti-fashion talks, which have become so popular recently? According to them we are at the end of fashion and consequently at the end of the haute couture. Do you believe in the high fashion’s future?
In any case, such kind of talks is not new, every epoch proclaims more or less the same matters. The end of the fashion in general and the high fashion in particular was already announced at the beginning of the century. The fashion has been evolving in a different way, that is all. People need and will always need to wear clothes. However, there always will be persons who want to be different from others, look differently, and who can afford this difference. Fashion and clothes that people are wearing shows their belonging to a certain social hierarchy which will exist whether we want it or not forever. On the contrary, I think that the high fashion is developing even faster than before with all this market of luxury goods which has never stopped growing. Buying high fashion clothes is a certain way to show your exceptional financial power, as well as your unique personality.
7. Do you follow any trends while creating a collection?
No, I believe that my aim as a designer of my own brand is the opposite – set up trends, create them. In a fashion house like mine, we do not need to follow trends of others. We create our own universe. People may like it or not, that is our way to go forward. On the contrary, big retail groups are here to follow the trends. There are also trend offices whose role is to anticipate what will be in fashion in future since in our industry we always work two seasons ahead.
8. What did inspire you to create this spring-summer collection 2017?
As you can observe I was looking for acid colors to be a key stone of this collection: red, rose, violet, striking green and yellow – all those visually very strong and intense tones. I was also inspired by the movie ‘Gentlemen prefer blondes’ (1953) with incredible Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. These girls are the gold diggers and reach men ‘hunters’, but at the same time they are versatile and perky. After all, they have the same dreams as all women on the Earth: to get married and to have a conservative lifestyle. I believe that even nowadays, when women became very independent, they still have this ‘old fashion’ dream of a big [wedding] ceremony when they are in the center of all attention. Thus, the idea of wedding came to my mind. I played with it, twisting it into a decadence. All my bribes are wearing long veils of different colors. They look so pure, almost Madonna-like, very chic, but, at the same time, there is a sort of rupture with a tradition, suggested by these colorful veils – that’s what make it interesting.
9. Does your ready-to-wear line influence the couture one?
Yes and no. Yes, because we have our unique style, the details of which you can naturally find in both lines – be it a color, ruffles or volumes. No, because our clients, who buy haute couture pieces also buy ready-to-wear clothes. They will not appreciate to have the same ideas in both collections, especially taking into consideration the prices they pay for the couture dresses.
10. You are an independent fashion house, among the rare few in the industry. If one day a big group makes you a proposal to become its creative director, what would you answer?
It would depend on many factors. Nevertheless, there are examples of designers who do both: creating for their own brand as well as for another fashion house. Since we launched our brand, we have been doing quite well. We might not have same budgets as some grand houses but we are free to create what we want, which probably would not be the case if I work for someone else.
11. Will you continue your Asia expansion?
In fact, we sell already a lot in Asia region: in Japan, in China, where we are developing many commercial projects, dressing the celebrities and enjoying a good press coverage. We have clients in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. Generally speaking, our couture clientele is very international. Historically we have many clients in the Middle-East region and in California in the USA. In Asia our clients have tendency to buy more ready-to-wear pieces. They prefer to have it fast and not wait 2-3 months before the couture dress is finished.
Photo credits: Haute Couture News, Alexis Mabille