It's difficult to pinpoint exactly when kink lost it's ability to shock on the catwalk, but it was somewhere between Yves Saint Laurent and Thierry Mugler. It's notable both were on the Paris catwalk, as indeed is Riccardo Tisci's Givenchy, who can be seen as inheriting their hackle-raising mantle of incendiary sartorial-sexual shenanigans.
Autumn/Winter 2012, however, saw Tisci on best behaviour. Sort of. His first models emerged clad head-to-toe in plack tailoring, kicking out at the back in soft bustles from a high, defined waist. neat on the shoulder, high on the neck, maybe showing a slice of skin across the upper thigh. However, soon that tailoring came in leather, then horsehair criss-crossed with lacing. Tisci was poring over seventies equestriennes and Guy Bourdin imagery - he said Bourdin, but you saw Helmut Newton's saddled and blinkered Paris Vogue models in Tisci's combos of tack-shop and sex-shop, slippery silk charmeuse camisoles combined with firm leather, earrings like blinkers aside the models' heads. He avoided the bit and whip, though. Just about.
So, this was about getting dressed to undress. Or undressed to undress. Or underwear as outerwear, ridingwear as underwear. It wasn't really that confusing - in fact, it was an all-too-easily-understood cliche. It was about sex and suits. And boots, lots of boots. But the splicing of lingerie and tailoring only works if it's a partnership rather than a struggle. Granted there wasn't really much of a struggle - tailoring won hand-down, especially as Tisci's lingerie was limited to a couple of camisole and pleated slip shapes in a handful of harsh colours. Embellishing with lace, studs and crystals didn't help: they looked like, well, underwear. The type of underwear you really have to wear something over to make it into decent society.
Indecency was kind of the point given the Bourdin imagery powering Tisci's vision. The colour palette was definitely Bourdin-bright, brash even, tangerine against powder blue, violet against khaki, and plenty of lipstick scarlet licked around inky black. But the kink was suburban, even pedestrian. It didn't feel like the subtle frisson of danger associated with Bourdin's bizarre aesthetic peccadillos - this fashion porn was decidedly soft-core.
The unnatural coupling on Tisci's catwalk was the unwearable and the uninventive, or at least the unexceptional. The tailoring in the collection was certainly the strong point, but not too strong. It was easier to imagine it selling out in department stores than making any major splash editorially - it looked as if the trickle-down from catwalk had begun before it even hit. That's well and good, after all realism is exactly what the lingerie-heavy 'eveningwear' was lacking. But, for all the thumping, pumping sex supposedly throbbing through this collection, it left you feeling rather flaccid. The irritating thing about this collection was that it felt like a step backwards, into the pervy parlour games we thought Tisci had gotten over. Most of it was okay, a lot of it was good, but we simply expect more from his talent.