Is it strictly appropriate for a French couturier to send out a catwalk homage to Amy Winehouse complete with models wearing exposed bra straps, Fred Perry collars, baseball jackets and shirts tucked into pencil skirts? Probably not. But yesterday in Paris Jean Paul Gaultier chose to do just that. A live barbershop quartet crooned an elliptical rendition of the late singer's most famous recording, "Rehab", and Gaultier went so far as to attach black veils to towering beehives for his finale.
Monday marked the six month anniversary of Winehouse's death and her father broke news of a forthcoming memorial concert only days ago. Gaultier's tribute was well-intentioned, clearly, but gave rise to a palpable sense of unease.
While his handwriting is entirely confident where French dressing is concerned and no one understands Parisian chic and a decadent undercurrent better, his grasp of a more British dress sense was less assured. The uniform of the dominatrix – rubber trousers, fishnets and underwear as outerwear – in this instance appeared more Soho sex shop than French couture salon which, given the context, made for uncomfortable if not plain confusing viewing.
True there were moments of clarity – Gaultier's use of colour was sensational in places and few cut either a trench coat or mannish trouser suit better – but this was not his most accomplished collection by any stretch of the imagination.
Earlier in the day, the rather less controversial Beirut born and based designer, Elie Saab, showed his spring/summer haute couture collection which was, conversely, as pretty as the proverbial picture. Saab has a booming couture business and that was clear as guests arrived: there appeared to be almost as many princesses front row as their were members of the press.
This season's collection will suit them down to the ground. Saab focussed on ultra-feminine shapes (sweet prom dresses with bouncing skirts and floor length columns with fluttering trains), fondant colour (peach, pistachio, lemon and rose) and fragile embroideries (crystals and flower petals decorated the surface of clothes).
Saab first became known outside his own country when Halle Berry was awarded the Oscar for best actress in 2002 wearing one of his designs. "It was a very important moment for us," the designer told Women's Wear Daily earlier this week. His managing director, Chucri Cavalcanti added: "The red carpet definitely has a direct impact on the business because when the customer sees a celebrity wearing that dress, there is more demand." With that in mind, while there was nothing ground-breaking on offer, there was much to appeal to Hollywood A-listers and royalty alike.