Mihara Yasuhiro said he called his show The Nihilists in honor of Oscar Wilde, but his reasoning suggested something may have been lost in translation. "I like ironic people," he explained post-show. "Like Oscar Wilde—his jokes were so serious." Yes, there is irony and a real seriousness of purpose in Mihara's designs, but nihilism is scarcely what came to mind as an appropriate umbrella for the intelligence, the romance, the ambition of his work (or of Wilde's, for that matter). True, the kneesocks under his shorts read "reason" down one leg and "insanity" down the other, but even when chaos infected his clothes (like the knits that trailed away into striking rat-chewed ragged edges), there was never a moment when you failed to feel the mind of the man, guiding the show like a great director guides his movie.
It was also true that Mihara's Fall presentation felt more downbeat than his exultant offering for Spring. Maybe that was because this was a season of consolidation for him. His show attracted the biggest audience he's ever had in Paris, so it made sense that he should give them time to catch up. Mihara paraded all his signatures in new versions as refined as the metal cobwebbery longtime collaborator Husam El Odeh drizzled over lapels and shoulders. Asymmetry was beautifully rendered in a jacket whose lapel turned into a flowing scarf, or a duffel coat that mutated into a cape. The designer's fabrics were, as usual, like magic tricks: Tweed was actually jersey, traditional melton was knit, and jacquards were photo-printed to look like thick artisanal sweaters (in his final menswear collection, McQueen achieved a similar effect).
Muted and somber though the clothes may have been, Mihara still managed to subvert the Victorian-college-boys-gone-Wilde formality of his tailoring with an urgent sportiness that was more mosh pit than playing-fields-of-Eton. He had a lot of help from his wife Hiromi, she of the electrifyingly frizzed hair, who amped the energy level with the kind of performance on piano that has made her a star of the jazz world in Japan.