UNDERCOVER "FALLEN MAN"
August 7, 2020
As we remain true to our mission in introducing people to the nature of premium lifestyle and fashion, Undercover is a gem that shines bright amongst the wide brand selections of FRAME.
It started at some time in the beginning of the 90’s when the founder of the brand, Jun Takahashi, was studying at the Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo (the institution that birthed legendary designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe). He and his friends, Nigo and Hiroshi Fujiwara, opened a small store in Harajuku called NOWHERE, where they sold carefully curated vintage garments from the US and the very first works of Undercover. NOWHERE quickly became a cultural hub for the creatives and up-and-coming designers in Tokyo, as well as a temple for cultural phenomena and movement called “Ura-Hara”.
A couple of sentences cannot entirely describe “Ura-Hara”, but the term refers to the moment in Japanese fashion history when the creative youths of Tokyo, who were hungry for self-expression and inspiration, encouraged each other to create. The light of that movement was so bright and fruitful that it forever cultivated the means of DIY self-expression into the grounds of fashion and field of arts. “Ura-Hara” gave the influential push for the existence common terminologies present in today’s fashion, music, and art industires such as, streetwear, collaborations, and sampling. Brands that were established during this era – Neighborhood, BAPE, WTAPS, Mastermind JAPAN, and White Mountaineering – are now deeply rooted in the fashion industry and million dollar businesses today.
Back then, young Jun was a lead singer in a local band called “Sex Pistols”. He was deeply inspired by the 80’s UK punk scene and influenced by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. But most importantly, from the very beginning of his creative journey, he was never afraid of taking risks and this boldness reflected in his research and development of work. This attitude led him to achieve that natural force of going “extremely deep” under the cover of the surface of his inspirations and channeling the “true” beauty in his creation.
In 2002, Undercover made its global debut in Paris with its Spring/Summer 03 “SCAB” collection. With the help of avant-garde queen Rei Kawakubo, the show gained the media’s attention and garnered attention from a global audience. The mysterious, unknown brand, in the eyes of the global fashion audience, was transformed into a need-to-know brand shortly after that debut. From the distress details to direct symbolism, the collection was inspired by the gutter-punk music and its’ subculture and touched up on the themes of peace and unity through anarchy. Conceptually, it was an attempt of transmutation of the rebel into the rebel with the cause.
Jun Takahashi’s meticulousness to detail in his design, powerful storytelling, and masterful execution all make Undercover’s work inspiring and influential. Yet there is a single aspect that truly fills the hearts of the brand’s cult-like following. This is the esoteric punk energy which is presented in a form of celebration of duality and acceptance of twistedness of reality as a common aspect of human nature – a true spiritual element that transcends Undercover garment into a wearable piece of art.
Well known for referencing movies and featuring scenes to draw up graphical work and other design elements, Undercover’s Fall/Winter 20 collection was inspired by Throne of Blood, Akira Kurosawa’s 1957 version of Macbeth. Despite the common western-inspired expression of Undercover, this was the first collection that references to Japanese domestic aesthetic. Presented in Paris last January, “The Fallen Man” was a collection that reinterpetated of Throne of Blood in the form of choreography-led theoretical act. The main Japanese element of this collection appears in layered-silhouettes and oversized fitting. One of the main highlights was the scene in which the protagonist, Taketoki Washizu (portrayed by Toshiro Mifune), is pinned to the wall by a shower of arrows, symbolizing the tribes of Spider's Web Castles.
It’s not complex to assume that the main reason for Jun Takahashi choosing Throne of Blood as the theme for the Fall/Winter 20 collection was to draw a visual poetry of a man seeking power by betraying his peers and ultimately facing a doomed destiny from the evil deeds. The story suggests the connections to the circle of life in the framework of Buddhist thinking of dharma. Symbolically it resonates with Undercover’s Order-Disorder motto and the journey of duality, which leads to a single destination in the end.