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Gaultier warms to vision of the cold North

THE FIRST thing an Inuit woman does in the morning is chew her husband's boots to soften them up.

There won't be many doing that to Jean Paul Gaultier's Arctic-inspired footwear with soles the depth and density of a kerb stone.

For his latest collection Gaultier has gone north, to the desolate wastelands of the Arctic Circle and Outer Mongolia, some of the most inhospitable places on earth.

The clothes were less bleak; on the surface the shiny satin oriental patterns intricately ornate, and underneath, warm and bulky.

Bjork, the Icelandic singer with the strangely discordant voice honed by glaciers, took part in the show and took on the mantle of Jean Paul Gaultier's new Madonna. However, she is a woman who embodies a different kind of individuality, more caring and less trashy.

Out she trudged on to the nuggets of fake snow, strewn about the concrete floors of the cavernous railway shed, hung with garlands of light bulbs, where the show was staged.

Keeping out the penetrating, bone-clenching cold of Gaultier's vision were real fur pelts and fake fur. The two were indistinguishable.

Faces were buried deep in haloes of fur-trimmed hoods and bodies muffled in thick wool blankets. Peasant skirts with accordion pleats hung over satin pants, the whole wrapped up in dragon or bull's head- embossed anoraks.

A Russian constructivist emblem, of the letters JPG, emblazoned hulking tunics. And to lighten the evening, which lasts all afternoon in the frozen North, came thick candles stuck into the plaited hair, their sputtering wicks lending tiny warming flames to an immense collection.

In the last few seasons, Gaultier has sent his customers all over the world, on trips to the Wailing Wall with a collection for latter-day Hasidic Jews and then last time it was India and Eastern punks.

Where next? Anywhere seems possible on the Gaultier gravy train.

(Photograph omitted)