Designers Dish, Paris Fashion Week Edition: Alexis Mabille Talks About His Red Carpet Trifecta

Zoe Saldana
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Zoe Saldana wears an Alexis Mabille Couture dress, Neil Lane jewelry and Roger Vivier shoes. She came to the Oscars with a Salvatore Ferragamo bag.

THR chatted with the Parisian designer about his breakout year of dressing A-listers for the Oscars, Cannes and Cesar Awards.

PARIS -- Since joining the exclusive haute couture club as the official French federation’s newest member last year, 35-year-old designer Alexis Mabille has made his mark on the red carpet. Actresses have long donned the Dior alum’s dresses, but while his name might have popped up at a premiere here or charity event there, 2013 is the year he hit the trifecta of big international A-list events: Bereneice Bejo for her Le Passe premiere at Cannes, nominee Lea Seydoux at the Cesar Awards and Zoe Saldana in a striking shades-of-grey gown that landed her on countless best-dressed lists.

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His designs are downright dramatic and full of whimsy, with outsized floral hats and frothy, confectionary collections and influences ranging from pink princess to this season’s cowboy-booted babe. He not only has a fan in longtime friend and front row fixture Dita Von Teese, but a muse – the underwear as outerwear on display from unbuttoned and low-cut shirts hailed from her Von Follies lingerie collection.

The Hollywood Reporter grabbed a few moments with the designer, while the models were still undressing backstage, after his sporty spring/summer 2014 show held in an industrial cement space under the docks of the Seine.

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What was the influence for this collection?

Rosie the Riveter from the 1940s. It was this idea about a girl, a strong girl that is feminine but she loves to work. She’s like a tomboy - it’s the idea of a pinup mixed with the tomboy attitude. That’s why there are a lot of men’s pieces that are treated in very supple and full material, with a lot of crystal. It’s reference to a Vargas pinup girl with a bit of rodeo influence. It’s a really strong woman - she works, she has fun, she shows her body and she’s sensual. This is the pinup side of the collection and it matches very well with an aggressive attitude. I love the mix of the feminine makeup and the boyish attitude.

It’s so different from what you presented at Haute Couture earlier in the year.

For Haute Couture it is a totally different story every time, because couture is about showing specific pieces, so it’s interesting to have your style of course, but it’s to make your clients surprised every time.

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How do you keep the collections fresh from season to season?

I keep the ideas of couture in couture and I keep ready-to-wear with ready-to-wear. The way you work on it is different. The ready-to-wear is done for real life and for people who are active or want to have fun or to go out. With haute couture you have to be a certain kind of person because it’s a long process and it’s very expensive.

You've had so many big red carpet moments this year – the Oscars, Cannes – what has it been like for you?

It’s been great! Every time we work on it before event, so it’s like doing a little collection. We work on creating the dress, we work with the actress or with the stylist, and at the end it’s a presentation. The girl has to embrace the dress to make it really strong and the dress has to be part of her personality. When you have an actress on the red carpet you’re not just showing a dress on a girl, but it has to be a good match in between the two. She has to feel like herself and it has to make her spirit glow.

How does it feel when you see it on the red carpet?

I am like the children [at Christmas]. You wake up in the middle of the night to see the dress. It is like a gift!

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Who do you next hope to dress?

The Queen of England. I would love to do a dress for her. 

I think she’s got a very different style!

I think that’s why I want to do it. But I’ll adapt the collection for her.