written by
Milan Habig

The Jun Takahashi Saga - A Brief History of Tokyo’s Punk Legend.

Fashion 5 min read

When people bring up punk, who do you think of? Maybe you think of the Sex Pistols, arguably the quintessential punk band. Or maybe it’s Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren on the fashion side of this genre; it’s no wonder they dressed the Sex Pistols during their heyday. But if we look at the East Asian side of punk, there’s one name that stands above everyone else: Jun Takahashi.

Jun Takahashi wearing Seditionaries by Vivienne Westwood.

In the early 1970s, Malcolm McLaren went to the USA and discovered a completely new music genre called 'Punk'. On returning to Britain, he started dating Vivienne Westwood, and together they set up a shop in 1974 called ‘Sex’, where they sold the clothing that Westwood made. Among their main customers were the British punk band Sex Pistols, who McLaren managed. What started as a way to promote the store grew into a global phenomenon that still exists to this day. On the distant shores of Japan, a young Jun Takahashi was ignited by the uncompromising freedom the Sex Pistols represented.

Malcolm McLaren and Vivian Westwood
left: the SEX boutique, right: Malcom McLaren and Vivienne Westwood

The now 54-year-old designer was heavily influenced by the emerging music and culture from Britain that swept all over the world. His longstanding relationship with punk music goes so deep that in every collection, one can see and feel the influence. So intwined are his passions, that during his time at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, he even started the tribute band called ‘Tokyo Sex Pistols’.

Live concert from the Tokyo Sex Pistols

Jun Takahashi first visited Great Britain in 1991, with his friend Hitomi Okawa, where he would gain inspiration for his own brand Undercover.

“I went to London for the first time in 1991 and I was already into punk and everything. I went to London with Hitomi Okawa. We travelled together and then she introduced me to Michael, whose house and office we visited together. We also went to his Christmas party and met Michael’s friends. Michael and Hitomi took me to the shops. We didn’t have Internet and he told us, ‘So this is where punk fashion was born’. It was very impressive.” - Jun Takahashi in System Magazine.

Shortly after, he opened up a now-legendary shop called ‘Nowhere’ in 1993 with his friend Nigo, who he’d met in Bunka. The shop was located in Urahara, short for Ura-Harajuku, meaning ‘the hidden Harajuku’. The name ‘Nowhere’ came from the Beatles song ‘Nowhere Man’. The store stocked Jun’s own brand, Undercover, which he’d formally started in 1993, as well as selected vintage clothing and Nigo's BAPE. Other notable lines that retailed at Nowhere included 40% Against Rights, designed by Sk8thing and Tet Nishiyama. In 1994, the label AFFA (ANARCHY FOREVER FOREVER ANARCHY), which was co-designed by Takahashi and Hiroshi Fujiwara, was introduced to the store.

AFFA clothing referenced 70s punk music and clothing alongside a 90s punk element in the design. The duo took inspiration from the legendary partnership of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. All products were handmade, and quickly gained notoriety in the scene. However, they never achieved broader success, and eventually parted ways to focus on their own labels, Undercover and Fragment.

In 2005, Jun Takahashi and Hiroshi Fujiwara, who in the late 80s had worked for Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, published a book documenting their love for Seditionaries garments (the name Westwood and McLaren’s store from 1976 to 1980). The book features images from their combined personal collections of around 350 different garments, which they had amassed from the mid-80s to the mid-90s.

Take a look at the full book scans here.
Jun Takahashi Undercover Anarchy Chair
Anarchy Chair, UNDERCOVER x Tenko Moddo 2023

Some more noteworthy moments include:

  • In his first runway show in AW94, the designer incorporated a lot of tartan and mesh, signature elements in the style repertoire of punks.
  • During the SS95 show, most models sported smoky eye makeup, another nod to the punk scene.
  • AW96's 'Wire' collection featured wire prints on oversized garments and showcased a significant use of tartan patterns.
  • In AW99, he sent a model down the runway wearing a Ramones shirt, and the collection included numerous black leather jackets and denim skirts.
  • The AW04 collection paid homage to punk rock icon Patti Smith.
  • The SS06 show drew inspiration from 60s and 70s German rock music, featuring a shirt with a kosmische Musik print. Interestingly, on Jun Takahashi's Spotify, you can find around 104 playlists titled 'Kosmik Musik.'
  • With his SS14 collection “GODDOG” Jun Takahashi picked up the punk theme once again, as the collection featured snug leather jackets and strapped garments, as well as printed words on clothes and accessories which read for example: “CRUELTY / SPLENDOR”.
  • In his SS15 menswear collection one can find again references to Jun’s personal taste. Tartan check leather jackets next to Parkas with band names patched-on spread the punk vibe through the entire collection. Also a long sleeve tee with the slogan: “noise music laboratories” reminiscent of the slogan “we make noise not clothes”. Furthermore, Jun showed love to the band Television by printing their name and album cover on various garments in this collection.
  • The SS18 menswear collection titled “Spiritual Noise” was reminiscent of past collections and drew further references. Models with spiky/messy hair were draped in loose garments including ripped jeans, combat boots, chunky knits and patched jackets. Most looks payed homage to the punk scene’s typical anarchic style and aesthetic. Yet again the observer can spot the “kosmische Musik” prints on various garments.

Overall, Jun Takahashi’s love for punk music is evident in every collection, whether it's menswear or womenswear. The designer skillfully plays with the anti-establishment aesthetic like no other, consistently captivating fashion enthusiasts, archive enthusiasts, and fashion journalists.

“What marks out Undercover from other brands? There is something anarchic and on the edge in these designs that are perhaps a vision of punk seen through a Japanese lens. It is rare for a fashion editor to say that there is a designer who never disappoints. But Jun Takahashi deserves that description. Somewhere, hidden behind the street-smart cool and hip designs, is a contemporary beauty.” - Suzy Menkes
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