For Jun Takahashi, it has been a year of collaborations. Less than three months after staging a joint show in Tokyo with fellow Japanese designer Chitose Abe of Sacai, he will show his fall men’s collection together with Takahiro Miyashita, who designs the brand TakahiroMiyashita The Soloist, at Pitti Uomo. It is the second time Takahashi has been chosen as a guest designer at the Florence-based trade show. And while he won’t give anything away about the collection other than that it “has a strong message,” it promises to be a memorable show.
“Undercover and The Soloist are using the same theme this season. But how myself and Miyashita are interpreting that and adding in our own ways of thinking about design — neither of us knows what the other is doing,” Takahashi said. “We won’t see each other’s collections until we’re in Florence.”
The 48-year-old designer said the idea came about after talking with Miyashita. The pair decided that since they are showing back-to-back in the same venue, it would be more compelling if they used the same theme. And while they both have different styles, Takahashi said it wasn’t difficult for them to agree on a general concept.
“We were in Florence to see the show venue in January or February of [last] year and over drinks, we started talking about what we should do, and we just immediately decided,” he said. “It somehow just came out and then it was kind of like, yeah, that’s good, let’s go with that.”
Takahashi said while his preparation for the show hasn’t been very different from what he does for his women’s collections in Paris, the joint nature of it has added a layer of intrigue.
“It’s different than if I were just working on an Undercover show,” he said. “I think probably we’re both kind of imagining what each other might be doing, so it’s very interesting. After seeing each other’s collections, maybe we’ll make different changes to the styling and such. I don’t know.”
Takahashi launched his brand 27 years ago, and while he has been showing his women’s collections in Paris since 2002, his only other men’s runway show was at Pitti some nine years ago. He said he was pleasantly surprised when he was approached by organizers in early 2016 about participating for a second time.
“I had thought that I probably wouldn’t do it twice. Of course, I thought that I would like to try doing it again, but I never actually thought I would be approached a second time,” he said.
It’s possible his second outing at Pitti will lead to more regular men’s shows, something Takahashi has been considering lately. But even if he decides to take that step, he doesn’t see himself doing separate women’s and men’s shows every season.
“If I do it, I think maybe once a year is enough. Maybe I don’t need to do it every season,” he said. “But I would at least like to do a men’s show every once in a while. Doing this show this time has made me realize, yeah, this is interesting.”
This last point is telling, as it has taken Takahashi several years to get to a point where he actually enjoys designing men’s wear.
“I didn’t really like making men’s clothes very much. I didn’t feel I was very good at it. Maybe it’s because I was trying to make men’s clothes using the same feeling I used to make women’s wear,” he said. “But in the past five years or so, or roughly after the last time I did Pitti, I changed my way of thinking and started making things that I personally want to wear as the core of the collections, and since then, making men’s wear has become a little easier. But at the same time it got easier, I became more interested in making men’s clothes. And so being able to do a show now, I think is really good timing.”
Undercover is known for its avant-garde women’s collections, which often juxtapose various elements of pop culture. Its men’s wear, in comparison, is decidedly toned down. Yet men’s represents a higher percentage of overall sales for the brand than women’s. In Japan it’s breaks down to 65 percent men’s, 35 percent women’s while internationally, it’s 55 percent men’s, 45 percent women’s.
“Women’s is really where I make things that I want to make, and designs that I genuinely think are interesting. But my men’s collections are at a level where I’m entirely making things that I want to wear,” the designer said. “Even though I don’t personally wear the women’s collections, I can do different experiments and I make lots of different designs. The variety is much greater than in my men’s collections, and I can make things under various concepts. I try to make a story.”
Takahashi is adept at balancing the fantastical with the commercial. In addition to his main men’s and women’s lines, he has designed collaboration collections with Uniqlo and Nike. He is also the president of his company, overseeing the business side as well as the design side. All this makes for a busy schedule, and it’s not one he plans to keep up forever.
“Of course, I want to keep making clothes for as long as I can, but I don’t want to keep going as I am now, doing shows every season, forever,” he said. “I would like to make things at a little bit slower [of a] pace, maybe do some drawings, make films. When I get older I want to have a more leisurely pace that allows me to do different things.”