Alexis Mabille is the young contender at Paris couture—a new talent with a romantic touch, a French sensibility, plenty of skill at his fingertips, and a refreshing way of thinking about merging old ways with new. For Fall, he said he started by imagining a girl waking from a languorous night of dreams tangled in her bedclothes. Well, she comes from a very nice home, this one. Apparently, she sleeps on exquisite white Swiss lace-edged linen pillowcases, shell-pink silken sheets, and luxuriously hand-worked cotton coverlets, which were variously cut into everything from fragile dresses to scallop-edged peacoats to drapey tuxedos to simple togas with a beautiful flow about them.

If that sounds like high-flown concept, Mabille's knack is that he's able to take the precious materials of couture fabrics—weightless organdy, guipure, and elaborate broderie anglaise—and treat them with a degree of reality that defuses theoretical grandeur. "I wanted it to look loose and casual-fitting, so she can wear things with the attitude of pulling on a T-shirt," he said. "I tried to play with simple graphic shapes, so everything floats. She's not such a girly-girl."

The collection also demonstrates an ambitious range—Mabille can turn out structured cocktail bustier dresses for ingenues as well as smart tailoring and chic evening suits for sophisticates. The show could've benefited from a tighter edit, but that's forgivable from a designer who's still stretching his wings. Credit to him for developing a signature, and for the pragmatic focus that underpins his enterprise. "It's not just a question of having fun. I have couture customers, but I'm also offering ready-to-wear options alongside these things," he said. "I want to build a business." He's certainly come a long way from being pigeonholed as the guy who does cute things with bows and bow ties. Now the bows are the basis of a large collection of bags, jewelry, and accessories—and are still evident in the satin sashes and shoe decorations sprinkled through the runway collection. But to judge from the growing accomplishment of this show, Mabille's set to go a lot further still.