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Givenchy's enfant terrible offers sex and sensuality

The British designer, Alexander McQueen, enfant terrible of catwalk shock tactics, let rip at the house of Givenchy with a hard-core ready- to-wear show yesterday.

After his first controversial couture show for the staid label was panned by the French newspapers in January, McQueen seems to have found a working formula that somehow makes his violent fashion sense compatible with his new job.

McQueen took Givenchy's staple ingredients and gave them his own salty, modern twist, creating a high-speed, sexually charged spectacle set in a disused horse market in Paris. He did it by fashioning leather - palomino, emerald or violet - into sexy bustier dresses punched full of holes, dyeing snakeskin lavender for floor-length coats and tailored jackets and, in an ultimate calculation, even put Kate Moss in a Bettina blouse of sheer black lace.

The result was often vulgar and aggressive - for the hard-hearted street- walker rather than the matronly society hostess. And while panther print fur minis, fishnet stockings and stiletto-heeled vinyl boots may not be what Givenchy's ladylike clients were hoping for, McQueen did not forget them.

That is why the show featured plenty of tame grey or pinstriped trouser suits, albeit with pointy power shoulders, close-to-the-body dresses reminiscent of the 1950s that were sensual but in good taste.

"It shows there are two sides of Alexander: superb tailoring and master creation on a women, and the other side is just crazy." said Joan Burstein, owner of Brown's in Britain. McQueen hits out at his critics in an interview in the current issue of Newsweek magazine, comparing them to Hitler.

"My clothes are out there on a limb and I get slagged for it." he said. "It's like Hitler and the Holocaust. He destroyed millions of people because he didn't understand. That's what a lot of people have done to me because they don't understand what I do."

Many fashion insiders shrugged the statement off as typical McQueen provocation. "There's a lot of violence in his collections, but a lot of energy too, and I think people are disturbed by it," said Nicole Fischelis of Saks Fifth Avenue. "I like what he does intellectually, but I think he likes to create controversy."