This season, it is clear that Jean Paul Gaultier wants to talk about Sex, with a capital 'S'. Or rather, a capital 'X', such as the giant spanked flesh-pink one printed on the back of his show invite, itself trussed-up bank-robber style in a pair of fishnet tights to set the fetishistic tone for proceedings. Gaultier opened his runway show with a tableau vivant of a seedy bordello scene, part Jean Genet part Cabaret, with girls swathed in flirtatious dollar-print silk negligees and teetering on heels, or cross-dressed in punk Doc Martens and pinstripe bondage suits. Bondage straps were somewhat inevitably a theme - criss-crossing suit trousers, buckling across lamé evening dresses or trussing up trench coats like a joint of ham. More subtle - and interesting - was Gaultier's plays with transparency, first appearing as opaque hose with an inch-thick window of sheer running down the front, then re-iterating that 'X' - or maybe it should be triple-X, as little black dress after little black dress emerged with the motif worked across it in panels of chiffon, organza or aerated fishnet. The transparent motif ran through cutworked or sheer panels on just about everything - cocktail dresses, trenches and inevitably veils, although Gaultier bound them across the face like kinky masks.
If it all sounds a little schlocky, it honestly wasn't (although there was one too many variations on Gaultier's peekaboo perforated flasher-mac for comfort). Gaultier has always sought to épater le bourgeoisie and has never been afraid to push our buttons, be they right or wrong. This time, his witty subversions of staples like little black dresses, mannish trouser suits and thick, luxurious furs chimed with the ideas of unconventional luxury we've seen elsewhere. Those furs were best when banded with transparent PVC, opening windows onto jewels or indeed body parts beneath - an idea that seemed, if not eminently saleable, at least genuinely innovative. And, naturally enough, Gaultier's finale brought the house down: making light, perhaps, of the mud that has sometimes been slung at him, he staged a full-on, on-stage body-clamming cat-fight in a mud-bath, with two of his fur-swathed models as contestants and erotic jeweller Betony Vernon making a chastising appearance as mediating whip-toting Brothel Madam.