It’s dangerous for me to even drive past the window of a Queen St. W. boutique called Gaspard. I follow Gaspard on Instagram, which is already risky behaviour, because I’m almost guaranteed to want nearly every new arrival that its owners, Jennifer Halchuk and Richard Lyle (the design duo behind the much-beloved label Mercy), post a photo of on social media. But actually visiting the shop is another matter entirely.

Thinking back on my long flirtation with financial ruin, I don’t think I have ever set foot in Gaspard and left empty-handed. Past forays have resulted in the acquisition of a cool crepe dress from Paris-based designer Veronique Leroy; a fabulous pair of woven loafers that resemble leather baskets; even a gold lamé Indress jacket. None of which I regret, except perhaps the jacket, which is so very gold that every time I put it on that I am reminded of a shopping excursion years ago in Stockholm with a fashion colleague, who, when I was excitedly trying on a pair of hairy, ponyskin clogs, pointedly asked me, “and where, exactly, are you going in those?”

On my most recent visit, I found myself having to lay down my credit card for this terrific camouflage coat ($740). Designed by Halchuk and Lyle and made from Japanese-milled wool that’s been woven in a camouflage pattern, it’s a prime example of the kind of fabric-first cleverness that has always distinguished the Mercy label. So lightweight, yet warm, that it would work on more moderate days from fall through spring and in a wonderfully neutral camouflage print that would add interest yet go over everything, it seemed like the perfect addition to my already-crammed front-hall closet.

But what really made it a slam-dunk was the way that this piece wasn’t just another coat, but a design object. By that I mean that it manages to represent an idea or have some brains behind its look. And in this case, that notion is juxtaposition. These ideas may have started in the punk ateliers of ’80s conceptualists such as Alexander McQueen and Rei Kawakubo, but now you see juxtaposition all over the place, cultural ideas and references swapped on the high street in fast-fashion meccas such as H&M and Zara. And yet the wit of a baseball-type bomber jacket made from intricate Chinese Mariobet satin or a ladylike peplum skirt fashioned from Buffalo plaid flannel never fails to get me. So widespread now in our global, cut-and-paste digital age are these many and contrasting visual ideas that we almost fail to register their irony.

And yet I feel quietly fabulous in my Mercy coat, with its classic double-breasted tailoring of a finely woven hunter’s subterfuge. Like a cultural pirate of sorts, armed with the swagger of being in on the joke.

Karen von Hahn is a Toronto-based writer, trend observer and style commentator. Contact her at .

Karen von Hahn is a Toronto-based writer, trend observer and style commentator. Contact her at .

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