The bikinis have been conceived as an exercise in erotica, and designed with one eye on Forties Vargas girls and the other on backstreet sex clubs. It is difficult to say whether a sane woman would choose to wear a black wet-look "Cowgirl" bikini that has a pistol at the hip and sheriff badges over the nipples, but a woman with a little sass (and bundles of confidence) could conceivably wear a pink leopard-print "Bunny" bikini with tie-side briefs and a matching wrap without shame. Other styles on offer include a pink satin "Rock 'n' Roll" bikini with skull and cross-bones positioned over the nipples (complete with masochistic leather collar), a kitsch Seventies girlie "Butterfly" bikini and a brown leopard-print "Bunny" bikini.
Agent Provocateur is run by Vivienne Westwood's son Joseph Corre and Serena Rees, the couple who have made saucy undies respectable in Soho and Milan. It seems only natural that breast-baring skimpy bikinis are next on the agenda. "It was our ultimate fantasy; these bikinis are what we wanted to see women wearing on the beach," says Corre, whose answer to critics accusing him of being a misogynist is: "I think it's great that a woman can be tempting. It's sexy and powerful - and we make clothes for women who enjoy being seductive." Looking at the bikinis, which can be worn in water (althoughthose with metal accessories should be treated with care), it is safe to assume that a presentable body is essential to carry them off.
Agent Provocateur favours voluptuous bodies, such as Sophie Dahl's, (who is a size 14) and will please those who are ample of breast and curvy of hip. Their Soho shop should be abuzz with women preparing for exotic holiday destinations who have been pining for some risky beach-wearn Melanie Rickey Agent Provocateur, 6 Broadwick Street, London, W1. Enquiries and mail order: 0171-439 0229. Prices start at pounds 50, available in sizes small, medium and large.