It’s not often these days that a fashion show serves up a sociopolitical message—designers are too busy making new merch to have much time for reflection. Undercover’s Jun Takahashi has tended to operate beyond the fashion mainstream. You can’t qualify as a true outsider when you have powerful retailers in your front row, but from his comfortable perch on the perimeter, Takahashi served up a bemused critique of our culture’s obsession with youth and beauty today.

The models wore creepy plastic-surgery masks that made their fresh faces look like they’d had work done: straighter noses, fuller lips, smoother foreheads, sharper, more defined cheekbones. Estate jewelry of women of a certain age added to the odd sensation of watching young women impersonate old women who were trying to look young again. The first section of the show riffed on hospital gear, from fuzzy white nursing shoes to lab coats printed with a dagger on the front and a wizened old claw of a hand clutching at freshly picked flowers on the back. Takahashi’s opinion of our endless quest for eternal youth? If those coats were any indication, he thinks it’s a lost cause.

By the end, he seemed ready to stake his position. To the sounds of Johnny Cash’s moving cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt,” he sent out a white pantsuit densely embroidered in shards of what looked like red glass—like drops of blood. The model stopped in her tracks and stared down the audience. You wouldn’t wear a jacket that could cut you, Takahashi seemed to be saying, and yet you’d go under the knife?

There were great clothes here—a section of oversize, blouson-style jackets; sculptural button-downs; draped and swagged knits; tortoiseshell-print plastic outerwear trimmed perversely in fur. But a runway show that made you stop and think? It qualified as one of the week’s major fashion highs.

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