Undercover - a street style staple
Undercover was launched by designer Jun Takahashi and Ichinose Kobo, a fellow student at Bunka Fashion College, in 1989. The brand became emblematic of the Ura-Hara style popular in Tokyo in the 1990s, which originated in the back streets of the Harajuku neighborhood. The brand gained tremendous popularity among Japanese streetwear aficionados soon after its founding, and now has a thriving following worldwide. Since 2002, the brand has showed their new collections in Paris. Undercover is inspired by Sex Pistols and other punk icons, and specializes in making conceptual clothes with a unique point of view. In recent years, collaboration with mainstream fashion stalwarts like Uniqlo, Isetan and even Sanrio has made the brand more widely recognized and discussed. The key to Undercover's global popularity lies in making clothes ""not of this world"" - a unique sensibility that fans just can't get enough of.
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A wholly unique and creative worldview is the foundation of Undercover. Founder and designer Jun Takahashi was greatly influenced by the punk movement and its idiosyncratic style. In his own words, Undercover can be summed up as taking up the position between street and high fashion, making clothes ""not of this world."" A complete disregard for trends and a wholly unique worldview elevates the brand to artistry. Undercover designs use a wide range of materials and technologies to produce their unique looks, resulting in looks that can be considered unbalanced or off-kilter - contrary to received wisdom. Undercover is best known for its menswear, but also produces a well-received womenswear line featuring signature edgy designs.
If you ask fans of the brand what attracts them to the Undercover look, the key features commonly praised are the originality of the design - these are looks that choose their wearer, that contradict common sense and require a high level of commitment to self-expression. The 25th anniversary exhibition held in 2015 showcased the myriad aspects of the brand, a labyrinthine and intoxicating display combining elements of fashion design, collage and art - a twisted melange that visitors thought perfectly encapsulated the essence of Undercover. A key point to Undercover's lasting appeal is transgression, exceeding the boundaries of fashion to become something larger-than-life.
The price point of these genre-busting looks are 14,000 to 34,000 for men's tops, around the 70,000 yen mark for outerwear, and around 20,000 for accessories like a silver ring or leather wallet. Except for outerwear, the brand can be said to be affordable in a high-fashion context. They also produce a range of accessories like watches and cosmetics pouches. The comparatively affordable accessories can be a good starting point for those looking to get their first taste of the Undercover look. Due to the cult-like popularity the brand enjoyed in the 90s, items were notoriously hard to get, but in recent years the inventory management seems more stable. However, although items might not sell out instantly as frequently as they once did, it's still a hugely popular brand - if an item catches your fancy, you'd better snag it before it's too late.