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Photography by Katsuo Mifreki

Night of the Graces: Undercover’s S/S 2010

Jun Takahashi presented last week Undercover’s S/S 2010 menswear collection at Florence’s Boboli Gardens during the 76th Pitti Uomo event.

The quiet that traditionally reigns upon Florence’s Boboli Gardens, located around the corner from the Pitti Palace, was disrupted last week by a very special event, a catwalk show by Japanese designer Jun Takahashi who presented Undercover’s Spring/Summer 2010 menswear collection.

The catwalk location - Giulio Parigi’s Island Pond, one of the most suggestive spaces in the garden, originally intended for the cultivation of citrus fruits and flowers - was rather unusual and, when a disquieting electronic rhythm similar to an alarm reverberated in the giardini, you could sense that this event symbolically marked the arrival in Italy of a new protagonist of the fashion world. This was indeed the very first time Takahashi presented an Undercover collection to Italian audiences. 

When the first set of models clad in pure white garments matched with plastic see-through sandals, satchels and bags, started walking around the natural circular runway created by the pond, many people in the crowd had the feeling that an almost robotic group of aliens had landed. White metamorphosed into beige and grey, then climaxed into silvery high-tech and super light reflective fabrics used for trenches and tops that shone through the Florentine night.
Deep blue prints of water and dark green prints of woods were used for long sleeved/sleeveless jackets and trousers that evoked a mountaineering chic mood, almost a tribute to the current eco-friendly trends, also referenced in the thin coloured branches – crossovers between walking sticks and whips – carried by some of the models.

Leggings – or rather long johns in mixed fabrics – also made an appearance, while green trousers that made you instantly think about a surgeon’s attire were paired with cumbersome bright orange hiking shoes or gladiator sandals, their weight creating a contrast with the lightness of the garments. Details, such as the protractor-shaped breast pockets and occasional perforated patches, were perfectly minimal while a sort of surrealistic functionality prevailed in the jackets transformed into bags by applying a leather handle in the place of the half-belt. The slim and streamlined shapes and silhouettes of the suits and outerwear of the jackets evoked the “Less But Better” theme of the collection, fully respecting the main inspiration that came from German industrial designer Dieter Rams.

Takahashi’s aliens with a passion for geeky chic and schoolboy’s shorts suggested the future is minimal, technological, yet also based on classic garments, reinvented and reinterpreted for a younger and cooler generation.
As a whole the collection was evocatively poetical, fusing modernism with romanticism, but Takahashi’s presentation didn’t finish here. Guests were then asked to reach the top of the gardens where an installation under a tree introduced them to the designer’s magically eerie dolls that he calls “Graces”. These oxymoronic entities of beautiful terror were created by assembling different materials. The mystery behind these creatures was revealed later on during a live session during which a Grace was slowly assembled, almost as a tribute to the strong doll-making tradition that exists in Japanese culture. While a band produced syncopated electric rhythms, a team created on a small stage a Grace, starting from the tubes and electrical parts that support its body, adding hundreds of disassembled fluffy toys, vintage doll hands and a Cyclop-like luminous eye.

As the guests were taken onto a discovery journey through the Graces’ world, they also grasped the very essence of Undercover’s world, a visual maelstrom, made of performance art, culture and clothes that demand liberty and independence and that rebel against everything that is superfluous and stylistically and aesthetically unpleasing.