Hint seeks out rising stars of design
March '08

Alexis Mabille is a young Frenchman on a mission to grace every elegant neck in Paris and the world with one of his beyond bow ties. That his friends refer to him as "the Christmas ornament of Paris" goes a long way in explaining his over-the-top, confectionery neckwear—as does the fact that Karl Lagerfeld is an avowed fan.

In a coup that shows just how fine his finery is, Mabille was invited to present his frothy fare during Paris couture week last January—both his accessories line ("Treizeor") and his unisex fashion line ("Impasse 13"). Princess Calixta Biron von Curland, the well-endowed soprano, opened the show with an impassioned aria—composed of citations from Jeff Koons and random German prose—decked out in a pink and flesh-colored organza couture housecoat plastered with Mabille's bows. And although it was the Princess who wore the frock, aptly called Frou Frou, in Mabille's universe it could just as easily have been him or any of the other slim white dukes who make up his retinue. From this auspicious start, the bows carried on; they appeared on boys and girls, they hemmed minis, kissed plunging necklines, graced cuffs and popped up almost everywhere else. And when he wasn't saying it with bows, Mabille turned mink into chain-link necklaces and made rugby-style caftans out of mohair and striped silk.

To better understand the mille feuille, REBECCA VOIGHT visited his Paris showroom to ask a few classic designer questions.

What was your earliest fashion moment?
As a child I loved to make costumes for myself. I couldn't stop sewing old fabrics together and getting into mischief to pull my ideas off.

And your first encounter with a bow tie?
My grandfather, who was a country doctor. He wore a bow tie everyday.

Can anyone wear your bow ties?
Not everybody can do it. It's not easy showing up at work in a sequined bow tie.

Describe a typical day for you.
At 7:00, I wake up. At 7:30, a sport lesson with Audrey, my personal trainer. At 9:00, I'm at the office to organize my schedule. The rest of the morning I'm in meetings with clients [L'Oréal, YSL jewelry] and suppliers. At 12:30, I have lunch with friends, business partners or press in a nice French bistro or Japanese restaurant. Around 2:00, I'm back in my studio until the evening.

And where do you go in the evening?
At 8:00, I have a drink with my friends at L'Hotel du Louvre or L'Hotel. Dinner is usually around 10:00 with my friends in a different restaurant every night, or at Kaï or the Livingston, my two cantines. By 12:30 I'm usually hanging out with some friends, or at a party, or going back home to sleep.

What are your obsessions?
Bows, elegance, how to play with people's moods, how to create beauty—or not. The line between the two is very thin.

What does unisex mean to you?
For me, unisex means clothing for both boys and girls, but not just androgynous. It's simply the fact that the cut and the fit of my clothes works for both. But a man stays masculine, if he wants to, and girls can be boyish or feminine. It's all frivolité!

Describe the last time you went too far.
For my last show, when I put all those bow ties on the runway, more than 1500 in all. That's too much, but I liked it. It was like a drug.

What song is playing in your head at the moment?
Music from the group Battle, which I used for my couture show in January.

What is your biggest weakness?
M&Ms.

What was your most recent peak experience?
Drinking snake blood in Shanghai to be polite.

What do your parents think?
They are proud and happy for me. We work together a lot.

Who inspires you?
My associate and muse Myrthe. Even myself. I work on my own desires for fashion and colors when I sketch.

Describe one indispensable person in your life and work.
My friend and confidante Katell Le Bourhis. She worked with Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan. She's fun, eccentric and very chic à mourir—and also a little girl. She's like "Eloise in Paris" or the famous "Madeleine."

What makes your head turn?
A good champagne in good quantities.

What is your favorite possession?
My 18th-century bed, which looks like a meringue cake.

Where is your favorite place in Paris?
My architect friend Joseph Dirand's amazing flat, where I go every Sunday night to have dinner.

Describe your favorite piece in the collection?
A white organza pant and shirt with lollipop embroidery.

And your philosophy?
To be a little inappropriate.