Jun Takahashi, The Sorcerer Of Fashion


Early this year, on a stage in Paris, a silent figure stepped under a spotlight. She was wearing a double-layered honeycomb-net skirt made of red organza, her hair twisted into giant ram’s horns. She was part Alice in Wonderland, part monarch painted by Velázquez. To the sounds of an unearthly accompaniment sung by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, she began to move like a clockwork doll that had become possessed by some demon force within her.

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This was Jun Takahashi’s fall women’s show for his Tokyo-based label Undercover, a new utopian society unveiled in 10 separate, ornately dressed tribes: ‘‘aristocracy,’’ ‘‘young rebels,’’ ‘‘monarchy’’ and ‘‘new species’’ among them. Undercover celebrated its 25th anniversary two years ago with a major exhibition in Japan but this spectacle seemed the start of something: a culmination of an aesthetic that has, season after season, become increasingly elaborate and unconventional, but above all, sophisticated.

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In Japan it’s largely known for streetwear (slogan T-shirts, hoodies, parkas) rooted in the outlandish youth culture born in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood in the early ’90s, a profile that stems mostly from Takahashi’s co-ownership of a beloved store in Harajuku called Nowhere, which he opened in 1993 with a school friend, Nigo, who founded another cult label, A Bathing Ape. This early incarnation of Undercover was a precursor to Takahashi’s collaborations with Supreme, Nike and Uniqlo, and to a moody, cement-and-glass flagship store in the wealthy residential Aoyama neighborhood. Internationally, however, Takahashi is known for something quite different: as the spiritual protégé of the Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo, and for the unfettered creativity of his shows.

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Takahashi himself feels his strength lies somewhere between these two leanings. Though he has made handbags in the shape of brains and coats built from layers of black felt skulls, this latest show revealed a level of drama unusual even for him. ‘‘I’m not interested in fashion shows where the models just turn up. What I want to express through a show is my perspective on the world. I want to really move people,’’ he told me. ‘‘I need such periods but I also need to balance them out with clothes that are more wearable,’’ he added. ‘‘Otherwise it’s not a business.’’

This post forms part of a larger editorial piece originally published on the New York Times. To read the full post visit the site here.

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