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John Undercover and Undercoverism

08/07/2022

It was in 2013 that Japanese designer, Jun Takahashi, decided to create his own ready-to-wear brand: John Undercover. Hailing from Tokyo and heavily influenced by high fashion and 80’s punk rock culture, Takahashi is known for his anti-commercial attitude and presents us with a range that is both urban, understated and well thought out, all while rejecting the identifiability of a brand in favor of an unpretentious style. A style he describes himself as “charming but scary, beautiful but awful”.

John Undercover or Undercover ?

It should be noted that Takahashi first created his label “Undercover” in 1993, not being in the same line of John Undercover lines. The Japanese designer, Rei Kawakubo, creator of the French brand Comme des Garçons, was the mentor of Jun Takahashi. Indeed, he enrolled at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo in 1988 without a clear idea of what he wanted to do. But after seeing his first Comme des Garçons show, he began to think that fashion design was totally free of creative expression.

From Tokyo streets to the Parisian parades

That’s where Undercover was born. After finding this freedom in his creations, he started selling his first t-shirts in his store “Nowhere” opened with his friend Nigo. He later presented his first women’s fashion show in Tokyo. One of the first people to buy his pieces was none other than Rei Kawakubo. The two designers became friends after several mail exchanges.

Eastpak x Undercover

This exchange allowed Takahashi to draw inspiration from Kawakubo to transcend the borders of Tokyo, and in 2002 he finally presented his pieces in Paris. At the time, he was part of the running club “Tokyo’s Team GIRA”, where he created sportswear lines for men and women under the label Nike x Undercover Gyakusou. In addition, he partnered with Uniqlo in 2011 to create Uniqlo Undercover. Still influenced by this punk universe and ripped leather jackets, he continues his momentum during a collaboration with the backpack brand Eastpak.

Precision as a driving force

This is where we arrive in 2013, the creation of John Undercover. We find a Takahashi with a subversive and elegant aesthetic while pushing the detail. Unlike his first collections, the technicality and clarity of his collections are much more present.

We find in his latest collection for winter 2018, an elegant feminine touch inspired by the Wild West and formal uniforms. Takahashi offers us a palette of red, lilac and powder pink on denim with touches of black. A palette accompanied by a Jimi Hendrix inspiration that is mainly found on the pink corduroy jacket with elaborate white trim on the chest or the frog tie jacket on the front.

John Undercover, a life lesson

Jun Takahashi signs once again a collection worked and pushed towards the detail. The shoes, declined in black, white and red, with a Vibram sole, reputed to be the best soles in the world, are just the proof of the quality of the John Undercover range. We feel all the curiosity of its creator always trying to emancipate himself and test new things without worrying about his mistakes. He says himself: “I am interested in everything. If it makes sense to me, whether it’s a doll, art or furniture, I’ll do it. But I still make mistakes – and that’s good, because they make me grow.”.

“We are human beings – perfection is not cool
– Jun Takahashi.

by Arthur Appercé