Undercover turns 25 this year and while that pales in comparison to the stalwarts of Paris or Milan, that's a really fucking long time. Starting in the '90s and coming up might not seem that impressive, but considering the smaller scale and underlying exclusivity of the brand, designer and founder Jun Takahashi has found his sweet spot as he reveals to The Business of Fashion in a rare interview.
Takahashi talks about how Rei Kawakubo has provided him and Undercover with a perfect business model to follow. While Comme des Garçons is on another level when it comes to distribution and sales, Kawakubo has proven to be something of a mentor. Takahashi says he's looking for the right person to manage UC's business moves while he focuses on the conceptual and creative aspects and doesn't necessarily concern himself with making a ton of money, which admittedly sometimes leads to financial issues with the business. High costs in bringing Undercover to the West means that merchandise is much more expensive here than it is in Undercover's native Japan, where it actually makes most of its money on cheaper, more basic pieces.
But the secret to staying afloat at times when the money isn't rushing in? Collaborations. Working with Nike since 2010 and multiple times with Uniqlo has kept Undercover around. And the reason those collaborations keep happening is because Takahashi makes them count: "What all the collaborations have in common is that they make it possible to do something that we cannot do as Undercover. It’s more like friendships and shared interests, and taking advantage of each other’s resources."
We appreciate the earnestness. It's too easy to turn a collab into a cash grab, but Undercover's never feel that way. Read the full profile at BOF. You just might learn something from one of today's greats.