Undercover is a high-end streetwear brand, founded by Japanese fashion designer Jun Takahashi in 1993. Although the term “high-end streetwear brand” may seem like an oxymoron, more and more brands fall under this category nowadays. Other examples include Vetements, Kith and most famously Off White.
At the start of the year, during the Fall Menswear fashion week, the brand displayed its collection to viewers in Paris. Despite my personal reservations and opinions on brands that fall under the same category as Undercover, this collection was poignant and left a great impression on me. In my opinion, the whole idea behind high-end streetwear is not only stupid but extortionate, as designers put high fashion prices on clothing that lack creative depth.
The Undercover Fall show was based on Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange.
The novel, which was adapted into film in 1971, is a work of dystopian literature and tells the story of Alex, the young protagonist, who is fascinated by ultra-violence and acts of obscene rebellion, only to be reprimanded by the state and condemned to extreme psychiatry. The film became a cult classic, however it received much backlash and criticism from contemporary viewers due to its graphic and almost unsettling content. As shocking as such a film might’ve been for viewers in the 70s, watching it nowadays garners almost no reaction from me. If anything, it is relatively tame compared to other more graphic and violent films I have seen.
As well as the references to Kubrick’s revered film, Takahashi also included some references to 17th Century Baroque art. The invitations for the show included a cropped version of painter Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus which served as a hint for what could be expected in the show.
The outfits displayed on the runway included cloaks tethered by ropes, feathered bowler hats and business-like gauntlets. The entire collection was a hybrid of 17th century “streetwear” adorned with references to A Clockwork Orange. The bowler hats and feathered masks were similar to the outfits work by Alex and his comrades in the movie. In addition, fragments of Nadsat, a Russian based dialect coined by Burgess for the novel and used by Alex and is friends throughout the book and in the movie. We also see prints of Alex himself and in one look, the face of Beethoven, the classical composer whose music Alex takes a strong liking to.
Overall, we found this show to be incredibly creative and well executed. The clothes did not possess any signs of great craftsmanship, the creativity and the individuality behind the concept of the runway show were for me the most important elements. Of course, it is important for a designer’s ready to wear collection to translate well on and off the runway, but such statements are rarely made amongst the high-end streetwear collective. References to popular culture and art history are two things that never fail to grab our attention and, ultimately, our admiration.