out there: Sexual provocation

The original idea was to take on that Conran's ideal, that bourgeois, beige, nice design, good taste crap and do a complete department store based around sex

The foyer of the Astral Cinema in Soho is lined with teak-effect Formica and posters for films like Hot Buns, The Fluffer II and Bikini Beach. A neon sign above the booth announced "Cash Desk X-Rated Movies Only pounds 6". A dozen journalists huddle under the strip lights, clutching Styrofoam cups in gloved hands, waiting for the show to begin. There are people from Channel One TV, a tabloid newspaper, i-D and a gay magazine. Oh, look, and there's Rowland Rivron, laughing.

Sheryl the PR girl hands out gingerbread men and pink press releases telling us that the TV commercial we are about to see was banned by the ITC, but will be shown at selected West End cinemas throughout December. She also gives us each a black biro. On the back of the press release is a space for our comments.

Suddenly, Joe Corrie appears in the doorway holding a placard saying down with puritans. Joe owns Agent Provocateur, a shop one block away which sells all kinds of fluffy, frilly, gartery, girly things, a cornucopia of sibilant sauciness: satin basques, silk knickers, seamed stockings, suspender belts and shiny black bras that lend breasts a conical shape. His clientele, he says, includes "housewives and supermodels, perverts and prostitutes".

Alongside the lingeries are select accessories like stiletto-heeled patent leather platforms, silver chokers, and Italian furniture in labial shades of velvet. The shop decor hovers halfway between Thirties' Shanghai department store and Fifties' Parisian brothel. The violin repair shop opposite installed frosted glass windows after Joe refused to tone down his window displays.

Joe is followed into the foyer by Bryony, Eileen, Amanda and Katie, all carrying similar placards and wearing macs, which they discard to reveal see-through babydoll nighties, black lace underwear, stockings and heels. Amanda's placard reads more s&m, less m&s. So much creamy flesh on such a chill November morning has the male journalists fiddling absent-mindedly with their pens. The girls smile, totter outside and wave their placards for bemused passers-by, raising cheers from the builders across the road.

Downstairs, the TV commercial shows a drunken suit staggering through Soho and stopping at Agent Provocateur to look at a blonde mannequin, who comes to life when he starts licking the window. She moves suggestively. His fantasy reaches a climax with the sound of shattered glass and he looks down to see that he has broken the window with a part of his anatomy. He runs off. That's it. The most disturbing thing, to my mind, was his resemblance to Rowland Rivron, especially when his tongue was hanging out.

Joe Corrie is the only offspring of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, so it is not surprising that he has opened a fashion shop with a provocative theme. "The original idea was to take on that Conran's ideal, that bourgeois, beige, nice design, good taste crap and do a complete department store based around sex." Unfortunately, he could never arrange a coincidence of financial backers and the right site, so instead he opened "a lingerie shop with attitude, a capsule version of the original idea".

The English, he says, are repressed and puritanical, and need healthy doses of pussy power to loosen their rigid, masochistic attitude to life. But, he maintains, Agent Provocateur is not just about titillation. "We're living through the demise of democracy. People, especially young people, just aren't interested in conventional politics anymore. The only thing they're interested in is direct action." Joe thinks that his Agent Provocateur girls can get the masses interested in a wittier form of headline-grabbing protest. "It's about using sexuality to provoke a change in people's attitudes. The only kind of revolution I'm interested in is one that involves glamour."

Back at the shop I chat to Bryony Shearmur, who beat 12 other finalists to become Miss Agent Provocateur earlier this year. Bryony has luxuriant eyelashes, an hour-glass figure, a Home Counties' accent and a father who is a "numbers man in the City". At a lavish ball held at the New Connaught Rooms she won her title with a rendition of Eartha Kitt's "I Wanna Be Evil". Since then she has teamed up with several other finalists "to fight puritanism and repression" wherever and whenever the need arises.

Bryony also intends to use her charms to focus attention on political issues, such as French nuclear testing. I ask if she really expects the media to be interested in anything other than her cleavage? "Well, that's my job, to make sure I can speak authoritatively on the relevant issues, to give a good quote." For the record, she is quite up to speed on Mururoa.

Joe wanders over with champagne for his glamorous figurehead. "OK," he says, "we sell knickers. But that doesn't mean that everything has to be aimed at crotch level. If you add up all the billboards and shop windows in the country that's a lot of space to put ideas across. That's the ultimate in subversive advertising." As they drink a toast to sexuality, Rowland leaves with Sheryl

There is nervous laughter and coughing.

particularly unsuitable

otherwise nonchalant

We're a nation of shopkeepers, and shopkeepers should take a stand.

And t

, more humorous

having a voice,

diamante earrings,

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice