Understanding what's going on at an Undercover show is a little like attempting to finish an incomplete jigsaw: The picture nearly makes sense, except for one or two crucial, missing pieces. This isn't a criticism; in a world that often serves up fashion meant to be speed-read and tossed aside, Jun Takahashi's clothes are worth the time it takes to interpret them. His spring collection, pitted against the raw, distressed terra-cotta walls of the Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, was no exception.
The show, according to the invitation, was an "homage to Jan Svankmajer." For those not completely au fait with the underground Eastern European movie world, Svankmajer is a surrealist Czech film director who has been dubbed "Prague's alchemist of film." Takahashi wasn't interested in transforming base metalor base celluloid, for that matterbut rather in conjuring fashion out of the domestic environment. This being Undercover, Takahashi worked his magic with a very specific home décor, a type that suggested down-at-the-heels Paris in the thirties: white lace tablecloths became a beaded shirt and a full skirt; a faded ruby panné velvet curtain turned into a dress; and a gold sequined tank topped a witty gray lampshade skirt that came complete with a satin bow and a fringed hem.
Takahashi continued his theme with references to wallpaper, using charming faded florals for paint-smeared Tyvek dresses or peeling the fabric of a beige trenchcoat to reveal a layer beneath. Sometimes it took a decidedly creepy turn: A dress that looked like its wearer's innards are spilling out is not destined for widespread adoration. This aside, Undercover continues to puzzle and pleasure in equal measure.