Review of Undercover

Spring 2023 Fashion Show

Review of Undercover Spring 2023 Fashion Show

The Bright Side after the Dark Side

By Dao Tran

This season is the first one back to Paris for many Japanese brands, including Undercover by Jun Takahashi. Maybe, if his last men’s season was called The Dark Side of the Bright Side, this collection could be seen as the Bright Side after the Dark Side. The models had tears on their faces, the show was held in the sanctified space of the American Cathedral, the music pulled on the heartstrings and the pacing of the show was very deliberate. But the opening look in neon yellow shows we have come out strong the other side.

The slashes in the clothes conveyed not only the punk rebelliousness inherent in the brand DNA, but perhaps because they were softened and beautified by sheer ruffles or flowers, it could also be seen as the resilience of nature, how flowers push through cracks in the sidewalk, a metaphor for our own resilience through the pandemic. 

It’s a gift to be able to create beauty out of things that are broken, like an artist’s studio I visited which also used a flower to beautify a crack in the plaster, or the Japanese art of kintsugi, which uses gold lacquer to repair and elevate broken pottery.

Breaking and putting back together is historically a strength of Japanese designers and Jun Takahashi is a skilled deconstructionist. The front of house images do no justice to his party in the back. This black bomber jacket or biker jacket are examples which resolve in a bow in the back, reminiscent of the geisha’s subtle art of seduction in the tie of a kimono obi or how the fabric stands back at the nape of the neck. There is the push and pull of demure and risqué in the flash of skin or, in this case, the orange silk lining. 

In German, there’s an expression “ein schöner Rücken kann auch entzücken,” which literally means a beautiful back can also be enchanting, such as the clothes in this collection.

The printed tees and sweatshirts with wide leg pants and jeans are sure to be a hit. There is a difference between athletic wear and sweatshirts made with proper darting or pants with proper pleats – it’s called the silhouette. 

Tuxedo shirts, vests, suits and trenchcoats all get the Undercover treatment, signaling a different return to new normal, what with the hybrid office, hybrid events, hybrid lives we lead now. 

Last, but definitely most, were the puff ball dresses that closed the show. Still a protection, a cocooning, but also a “I am here, hear me roar” statement. Let’s go!