If you’ve been living under a rock, maybe you’ve missed the rise of Undercover: Japanese designer Jun Takahashi’s ground-breaking fashion brand that blends punk rebellion with functional streetwear.
“We make noise, not clothes” is the motto of Jun Takahashi’s Undercover, a label that has become one of the most influential on the planet. Takahashi started out singing in tribute band, Tokyo Sex Pistols, and took his love of Vivienne Westwood to remarkable new heights, launching Undercover in 1990.
The brand began in Tokyo’s famed fashion district, Harajuku, and soon became an integral part of the hidden streetwear scene. While still a student at Tokyo’s Bunka Fashion College, Takahashi’s store, NOWHERE, collaborated with designers such as Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment Design and Anarchy Forever Forever Anarchy.
With the support of Comme des Garcons founder Rei Kawakubo, Undercover debuted at Paris Fashion Week in 2002. The invitation to the show portrayed the image of a model’s bruised and wounded knee, announcing the collection theme, “Scab”.
Undercover is a blend of punk, goth, bondage, baroque, and grotesque aesthetics, combined into streetwear. It’s a stunning mix of chaos, resolution, fantasy and rebellion. Takahashi’s bizarre imagination holds a singular perspective that centres around femininity and tailoring, as well as revolution.
A deconstructionist, Takahashi combines distant aesthetic elements and subverts them: overturning well-worn stones to find the squirming worms beneath.
Undercover retains its sense of humour as well. The AW19 collection included a Suspiria-inspired coat featuring a full-body image of Tilda Swinton. This carries on the theme of his previous season, which had models dressed as Clockwork Orange-inspired droogs on the runway.
For his SS20 collection, Takahashi collaborated with American artist Cindy Sherman for the second time in his career, furnishing black tailored suits and silks with prints from Sherman’s 1977-80 Untitled Film Stills series.
Takahashi told HIGHSNOBIETY:
“I am a fan of her work, especially her images that express a mix of madness and humour.
“I only collaborate with those who have something we don’t… mutually respective relationships are the most important. The design process varies depending on the season or the theme.”
Undercover has had notable collaborations with brands Uniqlo, Nike, Supreme, Wasted Youth, Beats by Dr. Dre and the fictional Takahashi-created record label Undercover Records.
Takahashi has taken the essence of punk and interpreted it as something contemporary and wearable. His work blurs the boundaries of fashion and art, recontextualising the raw soul of subcultures into modern style iconography.
Impossible to compartmentalise, Takahashi says himself,
“My philosophy of breaking down stereotypes remains unchanged.”
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