Jun Takahashi, the Japanese designer behind the cult label Undercover, is as reclusive as he is recondite. In a rare interview, The Moment caught up with Takahashi after his recent Paris showroom presentation.
A few months ago, you relaunched Nowhere — your first retail experience from about 15 years ago, in collaboration with Nigo — at Dover Street Market in London. It seems that everyone is doing collaborations these days, including Rei Kawakubo with her almost simultaneous teaming with Louis Vuitton & H&M, and now Jil Sander for Uniqlo. What do you think of those?
I find their collaborations far too business-oriented. In the early ’90s, when there was no such thing as a category called collaboration in the fashion industry, I worked with Nigo just because we were very good friends and wanted to create something purely out of interest. We just enjoyed working together without thinking of our activity as business. Under the current difficult economic situation, such collaborations between the big maisons have impact. But to me, they seem to lack a pure intention to pursue something for fun or creativity. In other words, their collaborations are productive only in terms of business. If you ask me whether or not I’m interested in such kind of collaboration, my answer would have to be “no.”
Music has a strong influence on your designs. Product design as well, as we saw with the first full men’s collection you showed at Pitti Immagine, which was inspired by Dieter Rams. Can you expand on your interest in other fields of pop or traditional culture, such as art?
Yes. For example, I create my Graces [the name given to Takahashi’s doll series] and take photographs of them. I also draw pictures and jog.
The Graces reflect something more personal and intimate, but now that they have appeared a few times in your work — first in the collaboration with A Magazine, then in the Undercover Tokyo shop and most recently at Pitti — how do you feel about using intimacy as a tool for the commercial purpose of selling clothes?
The Graces spontaneously come out of me, genuinely, while making clothes is something more calculated, an entire process that requires teamwork. But doing both allows me to keep a balance in my creativity. Therefore, it makes sense to me to have everything linked.
What do you find most repellent about the fashion system?
The misguided upper-class mentality, the mass media that place ultimate importance on money, the mass media that excessively seek the latest trends and all the incredibly fast changes in the industry. I want to introduce my own creations at my own pace. I’m fed up with the magazines that are effectively catalogs and that place so much emphasis on money that you cannot obtain exposure through them unless you invest a large amount of money.
Do you see yourself different from other designers, either from your generation or from the past? Could you please explain what those differences are and how they inform your designs?
I’ve never compared myself with other designers. But if I have to, one of the characteristics unique to me is that I believe that fashion is not my only means of self-expression. In addition, my perverseness probably makes me slightly different from other designers.
by Cyril Duval. Read this interview in The Moment, here.
Credit: All images from F/W 2006 style.com.