Jean Paul Gaultier loves a bad girl - after all, he helped create the template for her twenty-first century incarnation by forcing Madonna's bosoms into conical satin back in 1989. He's a rebel himself, of course, the quintessential couture bad boy chafing at the restraints of his metier season in, season out. And he's never been afraid of a dollop of bad taste.
Bad taste was what leapt to mind at Gaultier's latest couture show, an homage to the late, great Amy Winehouse. Her music may not have divided the critics, but her personal style certainly did - and against a backdrop of revived fifties do-wop, Gaultier presented his take on le style Anglais, a la Winehouse. So towering beehives and eyeliner flicks were par for the course - but, when it comes down to it, they were also naught but window dressing. Below the neck, Winehouse's personal style fused punk with pin-up, familiar Gaultier territory if ever there was. Strip off all that set dressing, and you had the ultra-trad foundations of Gaultier style, the tailored suit and the corset. Sometimes they were spliced with lace and snakeskin, swathed with taffeta or even woven from raffia - but it was pencil-skirted and wasp-waisted raffia, a silhouette that wouldn't have looked out of place sixty years ago.
That firm foundation kept the majority of Gaultier's offerings from veering too far into fancy dress territory. It also reigned in some of the typical JPG forays into deliberate, provocative tastelessness (try as one might, there's no other term for a crystal-spangled prom dress in bubblegum-pink tulle and black lace). Then again, the whole exercise felt a little crass - certainly it provoked a sharp and sudden intake of breath in the audience.
But however entertaining it was as a slightly ham-fisted, jokey journey, you couldn't help but think that this collection just brought us back full-circle. In the end, did Gaultier show us anything new, either for him or for haute couture? Hasn't he been co-opting Camden street-style for thirty years already? Dissecting that, wasn't it more appealing and innovative when Gaultier was offering a vision of the street that hadn't already been sanitised and seized upon by popular culture? One of the looks Gaultier showed even paid homage to Winehouse's line for Fred Perry, with his 'G' embroidered in place of the Perry laurel on a pique tennis dress hovvering about the upper thigh. Something a couture client would ever want to wear? Alas, mais non, non, non.