With a wall of glowing lights at the far end of a glossy black runway, it seemed that Alexandre Vauthier wanted to establish a nightclub ambience for his Spring couture show. Not so. "It was beach and windsurf!" he said emphatically, noting that even the ambient music reinforced the mellow vibe. There was, come to think of it, a beachy attitude to the oxblood bra that appeared midway through—its cups framed in crocodile—and to the hot pants that opened the show. They were shown with heels and a fold-over clutch that had a chain running between them, mimicking a surfboard leash: This was surf fetishism, perhaps.
Vauthier also gave exposure to a loosely interpreted ethnic theme that played out as jewel-encrusted paneling, extra-long fringes, and intricate leather braiding. If it vaguely recalled a not-so-distant Givenchy couture collection, the designer's pursuit of exceptional fabrications became the more interesting story. A preview of the clothes a day earlier at his showroom brought this into focus. Here, a leopard-spotted lamé reproduced from Saint Laurent's atelier. There, a deceivingly simple oversize warm-up jacket in rare white astrakhan. Up close, sheer leggings combined extra-fine tulle and lace in contoured accord. The rigid ruffles were the stuff of hat construction, an idea that emerged from Vauthier's correspondence with Maison Michel. Ingeniously, he affixed them to a bodysuit instead of a dress—and just like that, the surf theme reemerged. If only he had kept proportions tight and short instead of extending the swirling mass into a creeping tail.
There's some pleasure in knowing that Vauthier does not shy away from extravagance—or bike chains as choker necklaces—as long as the final product bears witness to his creative process. Plus he clearly understands restraint, avoiding closures on his men's-style blazers to keep his top layers fluid. He could benefit from recalibrating his ratio of hyperfeminine to token masculine; this way, his collections might not end up as engulfed by their sexiness. But one imagines that for some clients that is precisely the appeal.