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The Fashion fright night in Paris

Friday, 5 August 2011

Woody Allen, asked if he thought sex was dirty, replied that it was if it was good. The same goes for Alexander McQueen's shows: they are at their wicked and wanton best when they flirt with the dark side.
McQueen's contribution to Paris fashion week did that. It was creepy and elegant, grandly conceived and expertly realised. The chill set in with the invitations, which featured fashion illustrations by Tim Burton: nightmarish storybook heroines, Frankenstein scars and ragged (but beautifully tailored) dresses.

The setting was La Conciergerie, the eerie prison of Marie Antoinette before she was beheaded. Long shadows fell on to the catwalk from wolves pacing behind bars on the gallery above. The wolves, who padded along the catwalk fastened to the first model's wrist-cuffs, turned out to be tame; the clothes did not. McQueen's tailoring created exaggerated hourglass shapes, with waists pinched tight and breasts lifted high. Curves were outlined with delicate corset lacing, or cross-bound with belted leather straps. A tweed trouser suit featured leather bands at the shoulders and around the waist and hips, bringing to mind the movable joints of china dolls.

Prim-meets-pervy is classic McQueen territory, but this was an unusually wearable collection. Schoolgirlish piped blazers, ultra-tight jeans and leather coats added a frisson to daywear. McQueen's fans will be torn between the cream lace cocktail dress with biscuit petticoat and corset lacing, and the peachy leather sheath with organza sweetheart neckline and cap sleeves.

The one-off pieces with which the show ended are destined for glass cases rather than wardrobes. Some - like the gown of cascading waves of cream chiffon that trembled delicately as cappuccino froth - were sweetness itself. But a parachute silk black coat, billowing behind a model wearing a mask and toreador hat, was deliberately sinister.

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