It is hard to believe that that the perennially young Japanese label UNDERCOVER turned 25 last year. As part of the anniversary, the publisher Rizzoli is releasing a 256-page book on the brand ($65). It is the first comprehensive overview of UNDERCOVER’s body of work and the first book on the brand available in the West (if you can find it, hunt down the fantastic “The Shepherd,” which documented UNDERCOVER’s first Parisian shows.)
This is a cause for celebration in itself, as UNDERCOVER has achieved cult following a long time ago and its designer, Jun Takahashi, is widely heralded as one of the most creative in the world. In other words, this book is long overdue.
Takahashi is one of those rare designers that have been able to build an aesthetic universe that goes beyond the clothing and includes imagery, graphics, dolls, books, superheroes (UNDERMAN), collaborations with different brands, and so on.
Understandably, all of this, plus 50-odd women’s shows, plus menswear, is hard to cram into 200 images in a book. And while the book is a must-have for any UNDERCOVER, or fashion, fan, I could not wish for a little bit more depth. It just seemed to be over too soon, and with few images per collection that the space allowed, I felt that the depth of Takahashi’s talent was underrepresented.
There are only two texts in the entire book – the pathetic, I-am-not-even-trying foreword by Suzy Menkes (perhaps her incessant Instagramming is cutting into her writing time?), and a comprehensive interview with Takahashi by the artist and collaborator Tetsuya Nagato that lets you into the designer’s wandering mind.
One of the things that jumped out at me while reading the interview is how much of Takahashi’s work is infused with humor. It is one of those things that stare you in the face, but somehow I have not paid much attention to the humorous side of UNDERCOVER, and more to its sinister side. But, of course, the humor is there! Sinister humor, that is.
The book is divided into several sections – the brand’s origins, the women’s collections organized in a timeline, the sections on menswear, collaborations, and on the work outside of fashion proper. It is a good primer; one that I hope will send a casual observer into search mode, because Takahashi’s surreal road is one worth traveling on.
UNDERCOVER, By Jun Takahashi – Rizzoli New York.