celebrate a quarter century of undercover with jun takahashi

The father of Japanese streetwear saw the melding of his passion for punk and his love of deconstructed contemporary fashion become UNDERCOVER, his cult brand and the subject of a new coffee table book authored by the man himself.

by Lynette Nylander
06 July 2016, 10:30am

UNDERCOVER spring/summer 10. Photography Katsuhide Morimoto.

Jun Takahashi has never played by the rules and for it, is one the world's most preeminent Japanese designers. Since he began his label UNDERCOVER after graduating from Tokyo's Bunka College, he has remained much loved by streetwear's inner sanctum, who lap up anything his capricious mind creates. Always able to keep the fashion crowd along for the ride, Takahashi consistently straddles the fine line between style and non-conformity with shows that often echo his punk roots.

His shows at fashion week are often ten minute glimpses into his myriad of influences; models at his spring/summer 15 show were swathed in tulle skirts, while dresses with images from The Garden of Earthly Delights brought the painting to life. Crowns of thorns and headpieces of hydrangeas worn at his autumn/winter 2016 show juxtapose the collage art of Matthieu Borel on Jun's knitwear. If there was one thing that aptly describes what strikes you with UNDERCOVER, it's its hybridity.

After a retrospective at Tokyo Opera City that included mannequins from his most iconic looks, invitations from previous shows and sketches from Takahashi himself, the designer has channeled his quarter decade in the business into a tome that celebrates his work at UNDERCOVER as well as his collaborations with everyone from Nike, Uniqlo and Hello Kitty. The book opens with a foreword by fashion critic Suzy Menkes and has in-depth essays by some of fashion's finest scribes and curators, as well as his some of the most iconic looks from his back catalogue. We ask Jun about the two year journey from the start of the book to ink on printed paper and what 25 years in the business means to him.

UNDERCOVER autumn/winter 06. Photography Mamoru Miyazawa.

Why was it important to you chronicle your work in a book?
In order for as many people as possible to learn about the 25 years of UNDERCOVER's history.

What were some of the ways you have seen the brand evolve and grow throughout its 25 year history?
I started out designing T-shirts. UNDERCOVER has grown through trial and error, into a brand with a peculiar worldview that is somewhere between fashion and the street.

UNDERCOVER spring/summer 03. Photography Yoshie Tominaga.

What were some of the things you unearthed from the archives when creating the book?

Who have been your favourite brands to collaborate with?
Every collaboration is special to me and it's difficult to choose one. When I collaborate, the most important thing is for there to be something new, by bringing and combining each brand's strong points and creating something that has a demand in the market. When you look with that point of view, all collaborations I have done make sense.

A roar of anger from Underman. Photography Katsuhide Morimoto.

How does the brand continue to stay true to its punk roots?
I am not trying to stay true to punk roots, but the spirit of punk I learnt about when I was young is still in me. It is true that the spirit is the foundation of myself, so I guess my personal character is punk.

How do you look to stay subversive and continue to innovate for the next 25 years?
I believe I can continue to create by being honest to myself. But as far as the next 25 years? I am not sure if I can continue that long!

UNDERCOVER autumn/winter 94 invite. Photography Katsuhide Morimoto.

What are some of the things you haven't done in the realm of design that you would like to?
I always challenge myself with new things, so I would assume there are a lot more out there to try.

Who or what excites you in fashion?
I am excited by the distinguished creations of people with their own particular worldview.

UNDERCOVER by Jun Takahashi is available to buy at Dover Street Market on the 12th of July.


Text Lynette Nylander