By Ford Leland

Paris, France – Making a risky move for Winter 2013, Alexis Mabille drew his haute couture inspiration from the portraits of 27 different women of the belle epoch period. Presenting his collection as a modern translation of Italian artist Giovanni Boldini’s best works, he sacrificed a certain level of traditional cohesion in order to respect the individuality of his diverse subjects. While this decision has not produced the type of congruous collection one would expect to see on a Parisian runway, it has instead created a set of respectable pieces with individual personalities akin to those of the original dames.

In fact, Mabille’s whimsical sensibilities match well to the vibrating suspense of Boldini’s aesthetic. Where the painter might have stroked a blurred line to suggest movement, Mabille captured the same sense using oversized top-heavy volumes to arrest an image of potential energy. Leg of mutton sleeves, ruffled organza, and high waistlines gave the collection a belle epoch feel, while a slimmed lower body and innovative paint splattered fabrics provided a hint of modernity.



Though the entire Boldini Collection carries high artistic value, certain pieces have more relevance to the modern market than others. For example, the black smoking jacket with fringed organza shirt in the first look, as well as a draped cloudy-pink shirtdress with embroidered high collar, and a blue redingote dress with cascading crepe detail could have starred in a fashion forward collection of their own. Pieces later in the show such as the dress with a lace bustier and cutouts in coral twill, or the giant purple iris appearing thereafter are confusing without the explanation of their inspiration.

Fortunately, the Mabille clientele is as diverse as the women who inspired this collection. He will no doubt find success this season within his existing fan base, and rightfully so. However his brand will benefit more in the future if collections of this artistic nature are launched in a showroom format where the intimacy of the presentation will allow a greater expression of and appreciation for the concept.