If other designers are exploring the ramifications of tailored sportswear, it makes sense that Rei Kawakubo, fashion's great contrarian, would be focusing on sporty tailoring. For fall she delivered the most traditional concepts in the most nontraditional fabrics: picture a teddy boy's dream of a drape jacket and cropped trousers—done in black nylon.

Despite Kawakubo's notorious disaffection for nostalgia of any kind, the ted also made his presence felt in one shirt with a stitched bib and another with a ruffled placket, as well as in a shot of bright blue that appeared alongside the black and brown that dominated the suiting. (Bright blue was Jerry Lee Lewis's color of choice.) The thrust of the collection, though, was classics warped by sporty fabrications: the time-honored preppy combo of pale-blue shirt and chinos was updated in nylon; trousers in the same fabric rolled back to reveal an Airtex lining; and racing stripes encircled shirt shoulders or wrapped torsos like suspenders.

Kawakubo's instinctive feel for work clothes was evident in a chambray shirt topped by a denim-lapelled black nylon jacket and a sequence of washed-cotton pieces. But she closed her show with eveningwear—a black wool suit modernized by a vinyl lapel, for example—that defined the new elegance other designers often invoke but rarely achieve.