It’s undeniable that when designer Jun Takahashi founded Undercover — which celebrates its 25th anniversary with its first retrospective at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery — he was strongly influenced by the pioneers of deconstruction fashion Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. His first few collections from 1994-99 exhibit the unmistakable muted tones, raw edges and asymmetry that his mentors famously used to eulogize imperfections in the 1980s.

Quickly, though, he impulsively began to break other sartorial rules, with each season of lineups wildly different from the previous. He would stud military camouflage with glistening gems one year, hand-stitch disheveled fabrics the next, and then use impractical materials, such as shattered vinyl records, for another. The eclecticism would be as confusing as it is surprising if it were not for the one common thread that holds the Undercover narrative together: the dark labyrinthian hallways of Takahashi’s personal imagination — fueled by punk music, science fiction, medieval art, horror films, doll-making and so much more.

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