What we talk about
when we talk about
Jun Takahashi

When we talk about Jun Takahashi, acclaimed designer of Undercover, we often point to his Fall 2006 show, which catapulted his name into a global fashion conversation. When he sent his models down the runway in masks, some fashion writers insisted it was a political statement, although Takahashi maintains otherwise. His avant-garde clothes and surprising runways shows have been the subject of many conversations: Spring 2004 featured identical twins in almost-identical clothing, and Fall 2008 saw the girls on turning podiums with hairdos that recalled the Coneheads. Though he’s back on the runway for 2013, Takahashi has at times eschewed formal runway shows, opting instead to use unconventional presentations or forego the whole scene entirely.

When we talk about Jun Takahashi we talk often about his punk roots: the cover band he fronted when he was a kid in Tokyo and his love of early DIY aesthetics. Punk’s self-reliant ethos informs not only his design oeuvre but his relationship to making art as a whole. Not limited to the traditional press circuit, Takahashi has expressed his worldview through creative projects like his Grace dolls, painting, or editing an issue of the Belgian publication A Magazine. And when we talk about Jun Takahashi we must also touch on the subject of running. As the author Murakami asserts, and as Takahashi himself attests, the essential virtues of a marathoner are likewise those of an artist.

It's April right now, the beginning of cherry blossom season in Japan. Do you still notice the cherry blossoms? Is this your favorite season in Tokyo?

I love cherry blossom. There is a huge cherry tree with drooping branches in my apartment complex. It is amazingly beautiful. I can see it well from my bedroom. I like spring and recently started liking summer too. I used to hate summer.

Besides a brief stint in Paris in the early 2000s, have you lived most of your life in Japan?

Japan is where I born and I love my country very much. I think Japan is blessed with great nature, and there are many kind people. Although there are problems with nuclear plants and earthquakes, Japan is a quite livable place.

Were your parents creative people? What did they do?

My father worked for the city hall of his hometown after he graduated college. But he didn't like being an employee and so he started his own company, which provides cleaning staff to smaller buildings. My mother is a regular housewife.

My father's job is not related to creative work, but recently, after he reached his sixties, he has started drawing and has devoted himself to some creative works.

You were a young person at the height of the punk rock movement. Back then you were in a band called the Tokyo Sex Pistols, a tribute to The Sex Pistols. Do you remember what you wore when you performed?

Tokyo Sex Pistols was just a copy band...On stage, I was wearing authentic Seditionaries, which I borrowed from my friends, and I also wore some clothes I made myself.

In the 70s and 80s people heard new music by going to shows or listening to an album at a friend’s house. Do you think the way we find music now has made us lonelier?

When I was young, there was no Internet and I struggled to get information. I got information through music magazines and record shops and went shopping quite often, and went to live shows frequently, too. I also listened to albums with my friends a lot at one of our houses. There were only a few people who liked the same kind of music as I did, but it was fun to be around with them.

How have your musical tastes changed over the years? Has there been a progression from one genre to another?

The older I get, the more various kinds of music I listen to. When I was in junior high school, I listened to pop, punk rock, rock, folk rock and hard core...and when I grew up, at some point, I was so into reggae, dub, German rock and a little bit of hip hop. Today I’m listening to UK punk after a long time. And as I am answering you now, James Blake is played.


Do you remember the first cassette you ever bought for yourself?

I think it was of a Japanese band from the 70s. I don't remember the name.

If you could interview anyone in the world today, who would it be? If you could choose anyone in the world to interview you, who would it be?

I would like to interview and be interviewed by somebody close to me, like my parents or my wife.

Do you still keep a scrapbook? What is on the last page of the last sketchbook you worked on?

Every season, I make a thick design notebook. On the last page, I drew a design sketch of Nike x Undercover Gyakusou

You've been running for a long time now. Have you read the book by Haruki Murakami called, "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running?" In it, Murukami says that a novelist’s greatest qualities are talent, then focus, then endurance. Do you think this is true of your own work?

The book by Mr. Murakami is a bible of my running life. The qualities he mentions in the book are just so true.

What is the oldest, most beat up piece of clothing you own?

A sample t-shirt with the graphic of a U + under bar, the Undercover logo. It is quite worn out.

Do you think there are aliens on other planets?

Yes I do.

What is the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

A picture of my five-year-old son which I got from my friend. In it, my son is trying to hide his front and back, but I could see him trying hard to hide his butthole and that was so funny.

What we talk about when we talk about Jun Takahashi