We all have those friends who are entirely different from us, but who manage to complement us perfectly. That’s certainly the case with designers Jun Takahashi and Takahiro Miyashita. While the men behind cult-favorite Japanese brands Undercover and Takahiromiyashita TheSoloist, respectively, have been close friends for more than 20 years, their approaches to design couldn’t be more different. Takahashi’s Undercover started as a women’s-only brand, and his expansion into menswear has been a gradual one. Miyashita’s TheSoloist, meanwhile, has always been—and according to the designer, will always be—a men’s-focused collection. Yet, when the two came together to stage a joint runway presentation this week at Florence’s Pitti Uomo tradeshow, the resulting combination was a tour de force showing of modern menswear with a distinctly Japanese flair. Barneys had the opportunity to sneak backstage before the models took to the runway, and we invite you to scroll on and join us for this behind-the-scenes peek.
The joint runway presentation for Pitti was an idea that seemed to come out of nowhere for both Takahashi and Miyashita. Undercover had been featured as a guest designer at the trade show once before, a presentation nine years ago that marked the brand’s only previous outing with a men’s-only collection. TheSoloist, though, had never staged a runway show outside of Japan, and certainly not at an event traditionally focused on the more tailored side of menswear.
But once the two brands had been selected to share a venue and a show time, presenting collections centered on the same themes seemed a natural solution for the two friends. Centered on the idea of juxtaposing order and disorder, each designer created his own collection independently, and they didn’t see each other’s work until both arrived in Florence for the show. It was their different interpretations of the themes, as well as the similarities that emerged in their concepts, that made the dual show so interesting.
For Undercover, Takahashi highlighted the impact of science and technology on life today, but also drew inspiration from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Rubber gloves, elongated nylon trench coats, and radioactive warning prints all signaled the potential of a future man-made apocalypse, while bright colors, playful argyles and plaids, and Bermuda shorts with knee-high socks all injected an element of hope and optimism.
For his own showing, Miyashita also took a forward-looking approach, though his vision of the future honed in on the dystopian elements, minus the levity of Undercover’s color palate. TheSoloist’s looks were conceived with the idea of protecting the body, and his darker palette and sophisticated deconstructive approach conveyed a sense of isolation, loss, and destruction. That being said, the intricate craftsman ship and impeccable outerwear pieces will translate seamlessly into everyday wear for those who plan on being around for a while.
Even with these diverging views of how men of the future might deal with an environment that has turned against them, it’s clear that these two designers and brands will be setting the tone of Japanese streetwear for years to come.
Check out the full joint runway presentation for both brands: