The wonderful recipe to a cultural melting pot where japanese mechas encounters Oz wizards : about Undercover Autumn/Winter 2002 "Witch’s Cell Division”

The wonderful recipe to a cultural melting pot where japanese mechas encounters Oz wizards  : about Undercover Autumn/Winter 2002

Heaven vs Hell, Chaos vs Balance, and streetwear vs high fashion...Jun Takahashi's duality is always portayed through Undercover's designs and overall ambient surounding each collection, each time transporting us to new places, strange worlds where music, art, cinema, photography, and pop-culture are mixed up with a soft tone of anarchism, vivid youth and unseen concepts.


Jun Takahashi's old work studio


Presented at Tokyo's Yebisu Garden Hall on Sat 30th March 2002, 9PM, the fall winter 2002 collection will be the last show as a "catwalk" format hosted in Japan, preceding the memorable spring 2003 "SCAB" collection, the first Undercover show in Paris.



Spring 2003 "SCAB"

Titled "Wich cell division", this collection was quite particular as it blended various concepts and inspirations into a wonderful melting pot, maybe a little bit hard to understand at first glance wihtout taking the time to dig it up. Between several kitsch witches prints and cartoon-style Japanese robots graphics, it emphasized perfectly one of Undercover's biggest strengths: the transmission of various cultures into one specific atmosphere.



Most of the garments are thought and designed around two specific themes linked to Jun Takahashi's life as a young rebel growing up in Japan: 1960's japanese mechas and 20th century American witch pop-culture, in a familiar concept hinted in the title : cell division, remembering the fall 1998 "EXCHANGE" small parts one.



Fall 1998 booklet


Presented in a streetwear-way, with the inclusion of loose jersey tops and bold printed graphics, yet elevated at a high fashion level, garments shown in this collection encapsulate well this mecha-inspiration, with modular shapes and layers of convertible fabrics that the wearer can withdraw, assemble and disassemble, just like a mechanic skeleton that would change shape according to specific needs. Born in 1969, Jun Takahashi grew up with series and toys based on this transformable robot hero concept : Ultraman, Super Sentai, Mobile Suit Gundam, and so on... way much popular in Japan that anywhere else. Later followed by Neon Genesis Evangelion, that will be the very base of Undercover fall 2021 "Very Creep" collection.



Fall 2021 and EVA-01


As an example, the concept of Gundam toys (very shortly explained) is to buy a box containing tiny, disassembled pieces of your favorite suit, and construct the mecha according to a very precise instruction guide. You could buy an already made one, but the fun lies in the making process, as in this collection. Originally, garnments would be sold with a VHS tape recording a 2min video of a model wearing various items and subtitles explaining how to modulate them. The tape comes in a black box including a wooden puzzle and a few stickers. At the back is written a sort of satirical manual : "Assemble components carefully. Get up early as you need time to assemble components. Not for childrens under 19 years. Age 20 and up." Anyway, who cares about rules ? Certainly not Jun Takahashi !


Transforming process shown in the VHS


An other side of this transformation concept lays into something less futuristic, mathematical and more ancient, occult : sorcery. The garment metamorphosis doesn't come from a super mecha suit anymore but from a witch spell, dividing your favorite top into pieces. Historically, the image of witches in popular culture can be traced back to the novel "The Magician of Oz" published by Frank Baum in 1900 with its main antagonist named "The Wicked Witch of the West", who made this specific representation of the witch we have today so famous. With large pointed hat, green painted face, crooked nose and hooked hands, this old woman will cast evil spells while flying away on her broom. This specific representation will be on almost every garments : printed on tops and sweater, sewn on skirts and pants, all in various designs, mixed with themed symbols such as moons and stars. Nowadays, these witches prints are iconic in the legacy of the brand and often reused on various collections. Aside from clothing, haircuts were also quite memorable : messy, destructured and voluntary dirty to look like a real witch that would have spent her whole life living in the wood. "When I was in primary school, I was tunned by "The Wizards of Oz", such beautiful settings and costumes, actually you can still sense it's influence on my designs." Jun Takashi said.



"The Wicked Witch of the West" in The Wizard of Oz

Patches on a velvet apron from the collection


To counter-balance this "cartoonish" concepts, the collection also proposes grunge like garments all made in dark tones, from black to deep burgundy and shades of browns. 70's british punk heavily distressed sweaters with layers of hot colors were worn with folk inspired crochet coats and tops, glittery and silk maxi dresses with paisley motifs, layered velvet skirts, and high boots with hooked tips.




The childish obsession that Jun presents here for witches and robots printed on various babyish graphics was counterbalanced by a very particular occult atmosphere that we would find often in the first decades of the brand's history. Balance is always something that matters in Jun Takahashi's work. Having glittery, bright colors, sweet moments linked to childhood mixed with dark and serious themes is a key idea to remember. The cartoon witch aspect turns into obscure sorcery, with models wearing large hoods covering their faces, faces painted with complex motifs and drawings remembering cult and tribal symbols, making them more austere, unpredictable. The christian cross symbol is heavily represented in various shapes and mediums, that could be rembering graves, cemetery and death, but also the contrast between prohobited sorcery and religion. It is also a very popular symbol in the youth culture, used a lot for style purposes. At the end of the show, the few models regrouped together to form a circle in front of the audience, as they were about to make a ritual, linking with the title chosen for this collection.  



With the creation of a perfect equilibrium beetween opposite concepts and cultures, all completed by Jun's attention to details with breathtaking designs, Undercover Witch’s Cell Division marks an important moment in the label's history, as well as in the 2000's scene, contributing to the evolution of Japanese street-high fashion that fascinates the new generations of today.



Written by Mysteriumuseum and QuorthonDu75