“When Correctly viewed,” singer Tom Lehrer once noted, “everything is lewd.” With designers this fall conspiring to make kink the new black, the latest styles ask—demand!—to be seen from the dirtiest possible perspective. Seldom for the faint of heart, fashion now caters to the out-and-out fetishist, featuring offerings such as leather Valkyrie halters and lace-up platform boots (Alexander McQueen), fur-covered glasses and bags (Givenchy, Alexander Wang), tough-as-nails leather trenchcoats (Jean Paul Gaultier, Mugler), nipple-revealing sheers and molded breastplates (Gaultier, Stella McCartney), and odd fuzzy helmets crowned with pointy horns or animal ears (Givenchy, again). For my money, these last pieces rank among the season’s perviest standouts, in that they resemble required headgear for an unusually chic convention of “plushies”—people whose preferred sexual partners are stuffed animals and/or fellow humans in animal-mascot uniforms.
Not ready to rock a kitten hat? How about Hermès’s most unusual new confection: leather pants and riding boots cut from just one large sheet of leather. Available only in bespoke (bien sûr), the boots sprout seamlessly and disturbingly from the pant legs, rather like the breasts and toes that extrude from the frilly white dress and sensible brown shoes in René Magritte’s 1947 surrealist painting, Philosophy in the Boudoir. (As if to stress the fetishistic value of this image, the artist borrowed its title from an infamous sex treatise by the Marquis de Sade.) Its high-culture connotations notwithstanding, Hermès’s uncanny creation lacks any obvious precedents in the fashion world, leaving wide open the question of what one should call it. My editor likes the vaguely scatological coinage “poots” (pants plus boots), whereas I have been lobbying for “begs” (boots plus legs). My rationale is that nothing can beat (ahem) “leather begs” in evoking the brutal degradations practiced and preached by the aforementioned notorious libertine, who not only gave his name to “sadism,” but who once reportedly bound one of his tomes in human skin.
Decadence also cracked the whip at the Louis Vuitton show, which Marc Jacobs announced was inspired by “disciplines”—of the strictest S&M variety, that is. From see-through mackintoshes to diamond handcuffs, corsets in high-gloss leather to French maids’ collars in plasticized lace, sex-club staples abounded on the dimly lit, shiny black runway. While Naomi Campbell and Karolina Kurkova strutted their stuff in fuzzy police caps decorated with plastic Zorro masks, vodka shots flowed freely in the audience. The fact that it was 10 a.m. only heightened the mood of no-holds-barred naughtiness, which climaxed when Kate Moss appeared in the last, all-black ensemble. Dragging languidly on a cigarette and affecting a hardened, world-weary mien, she sauntered out in strappy lace-up boots, a fitted jacket with skin-baring cutouts and fur sleeves, leather gloves, and a pair of tight, high-waisted briefs that left nothing to the imagination—including the bit of uncharacteristic extra poundage she appeared to be carrying. And this very “fatness” (I use quotation marks here to remind us all that a fat day for Moss is still a superskinny day for everyone else) may well have been the most daring display of all. Why? Because she pulled it off with the unblinking nonchalance of a seasoned dominatrix—one who would beat you silly not because she wanted to (she’s been there and done that, more times than she cares to count) but because you were asking for it. “You looking at my pudge?” she seemed to say. “You’ll look at it and like it. Now fall to your knees and beg for mercy before I pull this Zorro mask down over my eyes, push up my huge furry sleeves, and put this cigarette out on your naked, tender, trembling…”