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Jean Paul Gaultier's Caged Belles
Paris - Half the passages in this week's haute couture show by Jean Paul Gaultier had birds' names; several were simply entitled cage, befitting a collection where many of fashion's most beautiful models hit the runway bound in wire traps or metal frames. 

This menagerie like show in Paris felt like a march of latter day Joan of Arcs, but bound for a demimondaine nightclub not a battle at Orleans. Flared coats in pale mink or redingotes in velvet came wrapped in the steel normally hidden underneath pinafores; sleek bomber jackets were enclosed by bondage gear.

There was a Fifties silhouette to this fall 2009 collection, exemplified by the prim to the knee skirts and raglan shouldered jackets. Russian uber beauty Natasha Poly in a mauve suits with curly cut outs looked liked she walked out from a scene in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

And it would not be a Gaultier show without his fetish Barnstormers jodhpurs and tough chic down jackets - these too encased in metal.

However, though one could not fault the quality or the rich imagination, one could bemoan the sense that the clothes did not look terribly new; the feeling that this great designer was ploughing an already ploughed furrow.

Curiously, there were many empty seats at this show by Jean Paul, once the biggest draw in Paris, or for that matter anywhere on the international fashion circuit.

That's why, when leaving Gaultier's headquarters, the overriding impression was of a designer in need of a fresh creative impulse - of a bird that needed to be set free.