Okay, so I think it’s important that we all take a moment to talk about JohnUNDERCOVER’s latest lookbook for Spring/Summer 2015 which is beautiful, but first a quick outline:
UNDERCOVER is an alternative menswear label from Japan. The brand’s origins trace back to 1993 and the same Harajuku movement that birthed A Bathing Ape, WTaps, Neighborhood and the like, and is headed by Jun Takahashi, a designer known as much for his humble reticence as his creative talents – the UNDERCOVER name assumes several meanings, of which this is arguably one.
Like many of his contemporaries Takahashi started out screen-printing t-shirts that played on pop culture imagery, music and media. Many of these original graphics are still popular today such as his Care Bear designs with blacked out eyes. He has since gone on to work with the likes of Rei Kawakubo from CdG, Junya Watanabe and Maison Martin Margiela, as well as continuing to develop the UNDERCOVER brand.
During this time, Takahashi’s label has grown to become one of the very best menswear labels coming out of Japan with a cult following from street level to stylists. His work plays with concepts like form, erotics, aesthetic and the arts, as well as consistently crafting a uniquely traceable identity that both roots itself in its stimuli and transcends the boundaries thereof. Previous collections have even taken inspiration from bands such as the Jesus & Mary Chain and Talking Heads, and Takahashi always seems to manage to bring something new to the fold even as he pays tribute. An article proper about UNDERCOVER will have to come later.
A diffusion line from the main label, JohnUNDERCOVER – alongside sister label SueUNDERCOVER – offers more of Takahashi’s reserved aesthetic with a focus on staple pieces and basics, interwoven as ever with the designer’s punk-rock sensibilities.
For this collection Takahashi continues to place reference points toward the 80s post-punk and new wave scenes, pairing drainpipe skinny jeans and creepers with shirting and draped over-layers for a tightly disheveled style. Fits are wide and long, with big squared shoulders and squared-off hems for a rigid look that stays faithful to its ancestry.
The collection has this feeling of being contained, almost compact. Colours are muted and reigned in to deep blues and blacks with sudden flashes of colour, with some accents even seeming to wash out of the base tones.
The collection also does another thing that I like where pieces operate together, with some pieces building onto others and creating a broader picture. The long hanging scarves and shawls bring whole new layers to otherwise simple outfits creating texture and character.
In the time that I’ve known about Undercover, one of its strongest points for me has been its flawless positioning in terms of culture. This collection has clear influences from different corners of the cultural sphere and it takes them carefully with a steady hand.
The placement and layering of UNDERCOVER aesthetic comes afterwards through the colour schemes and styling, but the fundamental elements of mod, new wave, post-punk movements that can be seen in these photos are prominent because they are tastefully maintained within Takahashi’s lens. Less obvious choices then settle within the noise and create an overall atmosphere of clothing, colour and culture, one that is palpably directed by the hand of its mastermind. Takahashi knows how to make a pair of trousers, but he also knows how to construct an idea, create an image and tell a story.
The JohnUNDERCOVER Spring/Summer 2015 will become available next year from select stockists, the details of which can be found at the UNDERCOVER website. In the meantime you can check out the latest collections and keep your eyes peeled for releases in the future. Thanks again.