EARLY THIS YEAR, on a stage in Paris, a silent figure stepped under a spotlight. She was wearing a double-layered honeycomb-net skirt made of red organza, her hair twisted into giant ram’s horns. She was part Alice in Wonderland, part monarch painted by Velázquez. To the sounds of an unearthly accompaniment sung by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, she began to move like a clockwork doll that had become possessed by some demon force within her. She bent, strained, writhed, all with a blank gaze that suggested hypnosis. Then she returned to the darkness and was joined, behind a red velvet curtain, by other intricately imagined live figurines: regal humanoid insects, birdlike soldiers, characters with hats borrowed from 15th-century Flemish nuns.

This was Jun Takahashi’s fall women’s show for his Tokyo-based label Undercover, a new utopian society unveiled in 10 separate, ornately dressed tribes: ‘‘aristocracy,’’ ‘‘young rebels,’’ ‘‘monarchy’’ and ‘‘new species’’ among them. Takahashi is not quite an enfant terrible — Undercover celebrated its 25th anniversary two years ago with a major exhibition in Japan — but this stunning spectacle seemed the start of something: a culmination of an aesthetic that has, season after season, become increasingly elaborate and unconventional, but above all, sophisticated.

Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, had admired Takahashi for years before she began to collect his work for a 2010 exhibition at FIT entitled ‘‘Japan Fashion Now.’’ Then, she says, people were familiar with — if somewhat reductive in their thinking about — the Japanese fashion revolution of the ’80s and ’90s, but they knew little about what had transpired since. Takahashi ‘‘was one of the most exciting things happening in the 21st century,’’ and this, she says, is his moment of transformation. With the medieval references in his fall show, he created, Steele believes, ‘‘a Bruegelesque fantasia’’ that felt both apocalyptic and relevant to the present moment. In taking spectacular theatrical risks, reminiscent of Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood, Takahashi doesn’t just look forward, but backward as well, to a seemingly lost era of fashion showmanship.

Backward and forward: It makes sense for Undercover, which has always had something of a split personality. In Japan it’s largely known for streetwear (slogan T-shirts, hoodies, parkas) rooted in the outlandish youth culture born in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood in the early ’90s, a profile that stems mostly from Takahashi’s co-ownership of a beloved store in Harajuku called Nowhere, which he opened in 1993 with a school friend, Nigo, who founded another cult label, A Bathing Ape. This early incarnation of Undercover was a precursor to Takahashi’s collaborations with Supreme, Nike and Uniqlo, and to a moody, cement-and-glass flagship store in the wealthy residential Aoyama neighborhood. Internationally, however, Takahashi is known for something quite different: as the spiritual protégé of the Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo, and for the unfettered creativity of his shows.

Takahashi himself feels his strength lies somewhere between these two leanings. Though he has made handbags in the shape of brains and coats built from layers of black felt skulls, this latest show revealed a level of drama unusual even for him. ‘‘I’m not interested in fashion shows where the models just turn up. What I want to express through a show is my perspective on the world. I want to really move people,’’ he told me. ‘‘I need such periods but I also need to balance them out with clothes that are more wearable,’’ he added. ‘‘Otherwise it’s not a business.’’

TAKAHASHI’S OFFICE is above his four-story atelier, tucked into one of the bustling, warren-like Harajuku back streets. The pattern-cutters work in the basement, and at certain times of day there’s a considerable amount of scurrying up and down the black metal stairs, as cutters with pincushions fastened to their wrists and tape measures looped around their necks present their work to the master for approval.

Takahashi greets me in the large room where he works, surrounded by personal talismans. There’s a pair of huge ’60s speakers and a wall full of vinyl. There are large art books and fat sketchbooks from past collections on neatly organized shelves. A vintage krautrock cassette is on display next to a page taken from an ancient anatomy textbook, and on the wall behind his desk is a portrait he once painted of John Lydon with his face scrubbed out. ‘‘I drew his eyes at first,’’ Takahashi tells me with a glance over his shoulder, ‘‘but it looked more complete without them.’’

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