“No more street style,” declares Jun Takahashi via translator. He's talking about his latest collection for Spring/Summer 2020, a mostly monochromatic offering of charcoal gray and black tailoring, with elements of Cindy Sherman photography, eerie textile graphics, and casual sportswear. “I wanted to do something that was the opposite of what everyone would expect from me.”
Set to the theme song of 2046, the Wong Kar-wai film mixing sci-fi, romance, and drama around the theme of reclaiming something that was lost, Takahashi's latest collection is a masterful execution of a true genius reinventing himself. While his last few shows were heavy on graphics and streetwear tropes—fishtail parkas, military jackets, bombers, tees, hoodies, and similar fare—this collection is a welcome swerve into austerity done the UNDERCOVER way.
“When I think about what I want to wear, it was black, but I also wanted to get rid of extra elements,” says Takahashi. “Just serenity; calm. All the tailoring is very simple.”
The invite contains a quote from poet Dylan Thomas: “I hold a beast, an angel, and a madman in me,” and full version posits a query that Takahashi answers through his clothing: “My inquiry is as to their working, and my problem is their subjugation and victory, downthrow and upheaval, and my effort is their self-expression.”
Takahashi admits that he too contains multitudes, and in some ways carries the same fear expressed by the poet. Although considered “your favorite designer's favorite designer,” he too is subject to the same pressures, anxieties, and self-doubts that continue to plague even the most established creatives throughout their careers. That fear is most directly expressed in a vampiric silhouette that manifests itself on jackets and suiting, a non-specific applique that Takahashi says is meant to represent something looming ominously.
On the other hand, he cleverly inserts some of his graphic signatures on coats, suiting, and evening wear through web-like embroidery on tuxedos, and once again referencing the work of photographer Cindy Sherman. Takahashi feels the duality present in her oeuvre similarly channels the chaos/balance he's consistently brought to his UNDERCOVER line.
“She has this kindness, but there’s a fear inside of it. I find it attractive,” he says.
It takes a certain kind of creative mind to be able to reinvent himself in just one season, let alone to able to speak so eloquently through the medium of a fashion collection. One of UNDERCOVER's oft-repurposed mantras is “We make noise not clothes,” but this season Takahashi proved there's also power in calculated silence.
“There's an underlying eeriness in elegance,” he surmises.