Today's special POP comes from the sweat of Jun Takahashi's brow. Never the quitter, never the complainer – Jun and the Gyakusou International Running Association did a Tokyo endurance trial to personally trial Nike and Undercover's collaboration on a new performance running collection. Follow his journey below – exclusive to POP!
THE NEXT STEP
GYAKUSOU PERFORMANCE RUNNING COLLECTION a/w 2010
The buzz across the internet and on the streets of Tokyo's Harajuku district has been building steadily. In October 2010, Nike and Jun Takahashi, founder and head designer of Japan's coveted Undercover clothing label, will be releasing the first Nike x Undercover Gyakusou performance running collection.
Fusing cutting edge Nike running innovations and design and the trademark functionality of Takahashi's Undercover, this is looking like a project with serious legs… Jun Takahashi's dedication to his "less but better" design philosophy mirrors that of Nike founder Bill Bowerman's passion for the athletic benefits of minimalism (Takahashi recently showed an Undercover collection completely inspired by another 20th-century functional design legend, Dieter Rams). This new Gyakusou design partnership amplifies levels of technical precision and intuitive function, delivering a modern perspective on running by urban runners.
Having started running two years ago, beginning with three to four runs a week, Takahashi soon found his distances increasing. "At the beginning I wasn't as serious as I am now, but the more I ran, the more I came to enjoy it and I became increasingly focused. Now, I run 12 or 13km every other day. It's kind of like meditation to me, but with an adrenaline kick too. Running actually allows me to balance these two opposites almost like a form of zen. Whenever I travel, I try and run there too. It's become a very important part of life. I have to run."
Taking its name from a small but highly dedicated group of Tokyo-based runners, who with Takahashi passionately run their city [the name Gyakusou comes from ‘gyaku’ meaning wrong way or reverse and ‘sou’ meaning ‘run or running’ - a reference to the group running counter-clockwise while the rest of Tokyo's runners run clockwise in the city's parks], the partnership draws upon a shared obsession for innovation, unique design and improving the performance of the athlete.
"To me as a designer," says Takahashi, "style and functionality is crucial and when I started running, I looked very closely at the color and styling of products as well as their performance attributes and functionality. The more I ran, the more I thought about my perfect running product.
"I had a good existing relationship with Nike so we discussed working together on a performance running project. Nike has always created the most innovative running product and partnering together was an opportunity to create a collection that fuses my Undercover aesthetic with Nike's innovations and our shared commitment to the future of running."
The partnership has surely exceeded all early expectations. The Gyakusou collection translates Nike's performance design language by expanding on core appeal with products that deliver lightweight, waterproof, breathable fabrics and innovative moisture management. Takahashi faced new challenges and opportunities: "with Undercover we've utilized high-tech fabrics, but through working alongside Nike I was able to harness cutting edge sporting innovations."
Examples of Gyakusou breakthroughs? The Stretch Jacket's laser cut, no sew construction, strategic seam placement and DriFIT sweat-off panels are a perfect demonstration of this streamlined rethink. A special watch window on the Fabric Mix Jacket, removable sleeves on the Zip Off Jacket and reversible headwear allow extra expression for the runner.
The Gyakusou Zoom Spider TT+ running shoe encapsulates Nike's latest technologies in two unique makeups, with Lunarlite foam, reactive Zoom Air, Flywire support and distinctive reflective design elements.
Total articulation and storage solutions were paramount during the entire design process. Carrying day-to-day essentials in silence is an integral part of Takahashi's needs as a runner, ensuring his run remains an almost sacred personal space where he can concentrate, unwind and continually achieve. Fabrics remain quiet, while keys and coins can be kept from contact – one of the designer's main concerns.
"I was always using every pocket my pant had. Now with this pocket system, you can put things in with order while eradicating noise. I think that will help the regular runner."
For a/w 2010, Nike and Takahashi wished to provide an alternative to traditional running neons and brights. The result sees subtle colors that Takahashi reveals "reflect a harmony with nature", offset with reflective safety details. A recurring red trim, meanwhile, is inspired by the artery vein – a clear reminder that physical performance is the foundation to everything that is Gyakusou.
For Jun Takahashi the point of the run is clear. There Is No Finish Line.
- POP 716 Tuesday 4 October 2011
- POP 587 Monday 16 May 2011
- POP 509 Thursday 10 February 2011
- POP 450 Weekend 13-14 November 2010
- POP 878 Monday 2 April 2012