Undercover (sometimes called Undercoverism) is a Japanese streetwear clothing brand founded by Jun Takahashi. The brand has been called "the essence of Japanese cool" and features finely crafted clothing pieces which are, in the words of Takahashi himself, "strange, but beautiful". Undercover has won numerous awards and been lauded by other fashion designers including Miuccia Prada and Rei Kawakubo.
Jun Takahashi's Undercover label has been rocking the fashion world with its unique stylistic references to punk and street fashion. Begun in 1989 while Takahashi was still a student at the Bunka Academy of Fashion, Undercover has gone on to be featured at major fashion shows in both Tokyo and Paris.
The designer himself, Jun Takahashi, was born in 1969 in Gunma Prefecture's city of Kiryu. He attended the Bunka Academy of Fashion for apparel design from 1989 until his graduation in 1991. His nickname is "Johnio" because of his resemblance to Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. He was apparently quite the Sex Pistols fan, because while attending the academy he was a part of a Sex Pistols cover band called the Tokyo Sex Pistols.
The brand really began in 1993 when Takahashi and Nigo, founder of the A Bathing Ape brand, opened a store called Nowhere in the trendy Tokyo district of Harajuku. Undercover really began to take off after the opening of Nowhere; thus, Takahashi and Nigo opened another shop in Aoyama. Soon enough, Takahashi was seeing his designs on the catwalk in Tokyo. A new shop called "Nowhere LTD" was opened after this and featured only clothing from the Nowhere brand.
Takahashi began working with fellow designer Hiroshi Fujihara in 1994 to create another brand called A.F.F.A., which stands for "Anarchy Forever Forever Anarchy". They worked on this intermittently for about three years, taking breaks here and there, though the project eventually fizzled.
In 2002, Takahashi's brand debuted at Paris Fashion week with great success. Soon after in 2003, he won two major awards for his designs from the Mainichi Shimbun. Today, the brand has a large cult following, making the brand both sought-after and expensive.
One of the most important thing to note about Takahashi's style is the incredible influence the Sex Pistols have on him. Even though it is not punk fashion per se, there are various punk influences throughout his designs, as well as references to other bits of American popular culture, such as Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. The cuts are often more feminine, and the fabrics make use of color printing. He also makes liberal use of tattered, frayed, and shabby-chic elements in his designs.
This brand's punk and street-style look have propelled Takahashi in the fashion world and he continues to see success with his Undercover brand today. In 2005 he was invited to design a special edition camera case for Canon, as well as being given the opportunity to guest edit the Belgian A Magazine. His brand is also featured at Rei Kawakubo's Dover Street store in London. These successes, and possibly more to come, show just how powerful a designer Takahashi is and his Undercover brand's avid fans would whole-heartedly agree.