Fashion critic

One in a series on the clothes that had a moment at Paris Fashion Week.


Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

PARIS — It would be an exaggeration to say that Jun Takahashi has discovered fashion’s Holy Grail, but he has managed the difficult feat of assembling a collection that perfectly merges streetwear with athleisure and luxury. His fall 2018 collection for Undercover is an accomplished and enticing example of what so many design houses from here to New York aspire to produce but don’t.

And he succeeded with wit and thoughtfulness.

The designer showed Undercover in a giant white tent with clear plastic walls, in the heart of Paris not far from the Grand Palais. His fashion was in the thick of things, not floating out on the edges. Any tourist or local wandering by had a clear view of the next-generation fashion being unveiled inside.

Takahashi used the idea of collegiate life as his backdrop. College, after all, is a time of experimentation. It’s a time for thinking adventurously. It’s a place where youth are groomed to lead — yet sometimes, perhaps, forced onto a particular path.


PARIS – MARCH 2: Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

He took the tropes of collegiate life and reworked them in cuddly fleece, glamorous lamé or thick, luxurious jersey. A navy blazer and gray flannel trousers were reinvented as a fleece jacket topping comfy sweat pants. A navy golf shirt and khakis became a jumpsuit. A tan blazer was spliced with a hoodie. Business suits became sweatsuits with lapels.


Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

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Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

A lot of designers would have been satisfied just having figured out how to manipulate daywear so beautifully, but Takahashi also had something to offer for evening. His black stadium coat, cut in rich satin with white grosgrain duffel closures, was paired with sleek black sweats. A tuxedo was fashioned out of crinkly black fabric with an iridescent sheen. And for high formality, he merged a hoodie with a waistcoat and tails. His beautiful Frankenstein creation was matched with charcoal gray track pants with pinstripes.


Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

His accessories included knit caps studded with crystal beads or baseball caps striped with strands of faux hair, as if to suggest that the headgear is so essential and ubiquitous it’s an extension of the person.


Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Stefan Knauer/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Stefan Knauer/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Undercover Fall Winter 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Takahashi figured out how to take all the elements of street style — the comfort, youthfulness, nonchalance and aura of cool — and translate it into clothes that speak to longstanding traditions about business, formality and teen spirit. He didn’t favor the establishment over rebelliousness. He didn’t annihilate characteristics of one so that the other could flourish. Instead, he synchronized the two in a way that benefited both.

In particular, he presented streetwear’s response to formality. And it wasn’t about thumbing his nose at suits, tuxedos or tails.  Or snootily declaring them obsolete. Instead, he was an eager student. He studied fabric, details, proportions. He sussed out how each subtly contribute to the longevity of these uniforms as well as their sense of civility and elegance.

He recognized the grace that is required to follow a dress code and the beauty in doing so on one’s own terms. And then he celebrated both.

Also at Paris Fashion Week:

Valentino’s gowns will take your breath away with simple grace and beauty

Balenciaga looks a little bonkers right now. But trust us: In a couple years, your eyes will adjust.

There’s a good reason these models are having a bad hair day

Two new designers took the time to channel their vision — and they got it right

Yeah, these sneakers are ugly. They’re also kind of fabulous.

Only one Paris designer had fans rioting in the street. But is his fashion any good?

Fashion magic in Paris: These colors should look hideous together. Somehow, they’re exquisite.

Dior wants to dress you like a 1960s student radical. But what’s the message supposed to be?