The sheer influence of Japanese brand Undercover is ever so instilled in the flood of modern-day designers that perhaps a short exploration into its groundbreaking accomplishments would be deemed as futile. Nevertheless, Undercover has proven to stand against the test of time since its inception in the early 1990s. From its diverse portfolio of collections and inspirations to the various sub-labels such as GYAKUSOU and MAD Store, the all-encompassing brand has never ceased to capture the hearts and souls of the generations of tomorrow. However, to delve deeper into the brand’s real roots and philosophy, one would first need to delve into its founder: Jun Takahashi.

Jun Takahashi was born in 1969 in the desolate city of Kiryu, Gunma, and already drawn towards the intricacies of clothing from a very young age. After graduating high school, Takahashi transitioned into studying at the world-renowned Bunka Fashion College, where he would hone his technical skills and create his now-infamous brand Undercover. Although the skills he had gained through the Bunka Fashion College proved to be of immense value in the years to come, Takahashi’s more dormant qualities became fully realized through his involvement with punk rock, unrivaled admiration for Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, and in particular his friendships with Hiroshi Fujiwara and NIGO of A Bathing Ape.

In 1993, Jun Takahashi and NIGO rose to the challenge and became the new faces behind Japanese magazine Takarajima’s ‘Last Orgy’ segment, created by Hiroshi Fujiwara and Kan Takagi of Japanese Hip-Hop duo ‘Tiny Panx.’ Initially, a segment dedicated to showcasing new products of the time and refining youthful taste, Takahashi and NIGO enhanced Last Orgy to the next level, setting the foundation for what would later be known as the Urahara Movement. Ten issues later, the duo opens their first brick and mortar store dedicated to clothes and culture: NOWHERE. From their first store to their Last Orgy segments and even their TV series, Takahashi and NIGO culminated in a well-rounded assortment of business ventures that both capitalized off and grew the fashion scene in Tokyo, not mention also strengthening the rise of streetwear worldwide. Through the connections established from these ventures and the experiences gained from business and creative-driven projects, it is no wonder that Jun Takahashi was able to propel Undercover to such newfound heights.

After making his debut appearance at Paris Fashion Week in 2002, Jun Takahashi began to evolve past his undeniable love for the punk aesthetic and search for more nuanced references and themes for Undercover’s future collections. Moreover, although the references between collections have commonalities, such as Jun’s affinity for music and art, they could not be farther apart. Look no further than comparing and contrasting the work of Anne-Valerie Dupond and Dieter Rams, whose philosophies and aesthetics were used as references for Undercover’s AW04 and SS10 collections. Takahashi has been consistently delving into more obscure references and has also been noted to incorporate increasingly immersive fantasy elements into both runway shows and ready-to-wear collections. Illustrated through seasons such as SS06 ‘T’ that juxtaposed German rock sensibilities with religious undertones and references to Martin Margiela and AW06 ‘Guru Guru,’ of which incorporated faceless models with tightly wrapped clothing and malevolent qualities.

After nearly 30 years of direct involvement with fashion and youth culture, Jun Takahashi has accumulated an immense catalog of work that enriches present and future creatives to come. The impact he has made has not only translated through fashion construction, but also entrepreneurial creativity, community involvement, and authenticity of self above all. Perhaps best illustrated by one of his slogans for Undercover: We Make Noise, Not Clothes.

Written by Casino Riv

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