Jean Paul Gaultier loves a good gimmick. If you need proof, just look at his Autumn/Winter 2010 Hermes collection, opening with a blaze of white light, a blast of the Avengers theme tune, and the sound of four hundred fashion journalists simultaneously Googling 'Emma Peel' as Lily Cole appeared in her trademark, form-fitting black catsuit. For all those yards of leg and diminutive millimetres of form-fitting calfskin, it was the distinctly John Steed bowler atop her ginger bonce that set the tone for the collection. Gaultier's latest ruse, it seems, is His-for-Her via Her Majesty's Secret Service, Hermes-style. Well, could there be a better parallel for fashion's new feel for stealth wealth? Gaultier loves a gender-bender-blender gimmick best of all, hence he outfitted his models in bowlers, tweeds and twists on the mannish tailored attire of very British gentlemen. The Avengers segued seamlessly into James Bond themes, for suited-and-block-heel-booted models in supple leather takes on the three-piece suit, luxe cashmere overcoats and even umbrellas, nattily kitted-out with miniature Kelly bags leather-wrapped to the handle. All terribly witty, if, granted, more than a little Inspector Gadget. The theme to 'A Clockwork Orange' roared as Gaultier sent out a few variations on pretty kilt suits in Hermes orange (get the joke?) and towards the end those bowlers became toppers for a series of leather trenches belted over crinolines.
So, puns aside, what was there to wear in this nudge-nudge wink-wink parade? That's the really clever bit on Gaultier's part - pretty much everything. Despite the pastiche of the styling tricks, the clothes themselves were plain, simple and drop-dead elegant. Trenches were cut in silken kid, traditional mens tailoring in cobweb-fine cashmere and those city suits stripped of watch-fobs fall perfectly in step with what everyone else is doing. The Hermes touch is the absolute perfection of materials, the Gaultier finesse is the superb cut. Beau Brummell, the ultimate dandy, reasoned that if a man turned to look at you in the street, you were not well dressed. That litmus test for elegance stands true today: it's the highest accolade that the only reason anyone would look twice at an Hermes woman would be in a double-take at how perfect she looked. And maybe a third to clock the label, too.