GIRA: Gyakusou International Running Association
- Jun Takahashi talks to David Hellqvist about his love of running and the SS13 collection in collaboration with Nike
Most designers with two clothing lines under their brand umbrella have a red thread running through them. The difference between main and diffusion lines is often a financial issue or a question of formal versus casual. Still, their fundamental aesthetic ensure they share a design DNA. It’s in that context that Jun Takahashi’s two different brands – Undercover and Gyakusou – are so extraordinary. The Japanese punk supremo has, since Gyakusuo’s incarnation six seasons ago, managed to present two collections that are a world apart but still tell the story of two honest and authentic sides to Takahashi. Undercover, his catwalk line that returned to the Parisian womenswear RTW stage in February, is an expression of Takahashi’s inner world; dreams and fantasies share the stage with concepts and illusions. Gyakusou, on the other hand, is as functional, real and practical as they come.
Gyakusou is a collaborative effort between Takahashi and sportswear giants Nike. Takahashi brings colours, patterns and flair to the table. Nike brings technology. Style and substance, hand in hand. The brand, to put it simply, is a high end fashion line of exercise clothing, marrying Nike’s innovative technology and Takahashi’s edgy designs. But Gyakusou, even though its price point is higher than ordinary Nike clothes, is still first and foremost a running collection and not a fashion experiment. In Tokyo parks, Takahashi and his GIRA (Gyakusou International Running Association) try out the gear themselves, improving it as they go along.
Three years in, and Takahashi is finding his feet. Gyakusou was pretty spot on from the start, but the last few seasons has seen him scale down the design element, focusing on the task ahead; running. As Takahashi evolves as a runner, so does the collection: “Design-wise, it’s getting simpler. I wanted to focus more on the functions and for the functions to work the design doesn’t need so much space. The first season had more of a sharp design to it and that was a design that was not necessary for running – now it’s a lot more functional!”
Well-made running clothes face a seasonal dilemma, but not in terms of fashion seasons. If it’s cold, the gear must protect the runner and keep him or her warm while exercising. At the same time, in warm weather, the moist, heat and sweat must still allow the runner’s clothes to breath. So which one offers the biggest design challenge?
“It depends. Incorporating function into your design will always depend on the fabrics available. Nike already had special fabrics which function really well. Sometimes it will be easy, sometimes
it will be difficult. I prefer running in cold weather but regardless of the distance it’s always hard to run – it’s such a mental sport as you’re always faced with yourself,” says Takahashi.
In the Gyakusou showroom in Paris, Takahashi is solemnly re-grouping the rails of his SS13 collection. Dressed in a wine red knit jumper, black-framed glasses and a wide-brimmed hat, he will soon change into Gyakusou and take to the Parisian streets, running through the night. The Spring Summer collection is inspired by Rio de Janeiro; how does a runner survive in a tropical climate? With those cooling requirements in mind, Takahashi set out to relieve the heat through mesh fabrics and sleeveless tops. Mesa orange, victory green and fuchsia Sangria pink represent Rio’s vivid summer colour pallette.
For Takahashi, running is a key factor in life. Over the years, it’s become a highly addictive past time activity: “Marathons are becoming part of my lifestyle and running is keeping me in certain rhythms. If I don’t run then my body feels still, and my mind isn’t clear. I run every other day, usually 10K-15K which is about five laps around Yoyogi park in Tokyo, where I live. And everyone runs clockwise around the park but I run anti-clockwise – Gyakusou means ‘reverse running’,” Takahashi says.
Initially though, it was his desire to keep fit that got him into running. “Well, I started running in order to keep healthy. I started with a 10K marathon and gradually increased my distance and finally I participated in a full marathon which is 42K. But everything was gradual.”
So these days there’s also a competitive element to his GIRA running, but it’s still about inner peace rather then medals. In December last year Takahashi ran the Honolulu marathon: “I’ve done it three times now already. I try to do the Honolulu marathon every year. It’s very hot and hilly, very up and down,” he says. “It’s always just step-by-step. The same for work or for running. Just keep going forward and believe. I never set physical rewards for myself. Again, it’s just mental thing – thinking you’re getting healthier and stronger.”Text David Hellqvist
Photography Adrian Crispin