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Agent Provocateur

Whipping debate: Thong vs. boy-short (Photo by Ted Soqui)

It’s a safe bet that nothing at Fashion Week will evoke more sex appeal and seduction than Monday night’s Agent Provocateur show, which brought out a host of celebs (Courtney Love, Christina Aguilera, Cher, Anthony Kiedis, Carmen Electra) to see its procession of pinup-style girlies in lingerie. And A.P. ain’t just any lingerie. The U.K.-based company, opened by Joseph Corre (Vivienne Westwood’s son) and Serena Rees in 1994, is quite possibly the crème de la crème of undies — well-crafted, exquisitely detailed, in colors that range from sweet to sinful. This is underwear that’s meant to be seen, by one’s lover preferably, and it’s anything but practical.

Ruffles and bows line bra edges, and rows of lace puff out from panty behinds, front sides, and even hips on many designs. Garter belts, done in fine but crunchy-looking lace, are elongated to look like layered micro-miniskirts, and thigh-high stockings (worn very high up on the leg) stay up by themselves by squeezing the sensitive flesh most women (not models, of course) want to hide, not highlight. But then Provocateur is less about function and reality than it is about femininity and fantasy. Monday’s show really drove the concept home with a presentation that began with a traditional but sensual satiny white ensemble for the bride (probably A.P.’s biggest customer next to the rich and famous), and a trio of bridesmaids in skimpy, see-through sherbet-hued sets. “This is not gonna suck,” a delighted pal of Kiedis’ remarked behind me.

Most of the pieces were pretty demure at first, vintage-style, with thick-stitched seams and obvious boning on bras, and fuller-coverage bottoms (boy-shorts, bikini cuts and even some high-waisted and tap-pant looks with garters). A bathing-beauty portion featured striped sets and A.P.’s ever-popular leopard prints (as a leopard connoisseur — yes, there are many of us — I think it might be one of the best versions of the print out there).

Things got vampier and downright kinky toward the end of the show, with protruding pasties, burlesquey ta-ta tassels, and an all-black collection featuring whips, leather thongs (with matching cat mask), and even a weird dog-collar, chain and cuff thingy (it looked cheap, like something you’d get on the sale table at the Pleasure Chest).

Obviously, the company is at its best when it sticks to the retro, Varga Girl aesthetic (it needs to leave the fetish goth-mistress look to Hot Topic), which is what the show did focus on for the most part. There was much to covet. Oh, and a word about the great thong-vs.-boy-short debate. A.P. showed way more bikinis and boy-short styles than butt-floss looks, so it looks like all the media buzz about the death of the G-string just might be coming to fruition. Ahhhhhh.