It’s easy to write off Undercover as simply “punk-inspired” clothing. Designer Jun Takahashi makes his references, whether they are the Sex Pistols or Kurt Cobain, quite apparent. Simply taking this approach, however, would be both a disservice and vast under characterization of what his groundbreaking brand has accomplished in the past 25 years.

To truly understand Undercover, you have to understand the designer himself. Takahashi was born in 1969 in the small village of Kiryu. His youth was a mash of corny state-sponsored cartoons, international music magazines, and digging through his mom’s clothing and accessories, occasionally playing dress-up. These mundane children’s pastimes seem innocent, however they are crucial to understanding Undercover. With Takahashi, action figures and women’s costume jewelry are as essential as Nevermind.

Between 1970-1990, the midst of Takahashi’s youth, Japan underwent a period of drastic change. While the former feudal nation prided itself on being insular, following the war and seven years of American occupation, western influence began to creep in. By the mid-‘80s, metal and punk rock were as prevalent in Tokyo as they were in New York and London. The combination of globalization and dispensable income paved the way for a new era of Japanese influence. With the rise of Comme des Garçons—highlighted by Rei Kawakubo’s inaugural Paris runway show in 1981—suddenly the fashion set had its gaze firmly fixed on Tokyo. By the end of the decade, Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake were cornerstones of the Paris fashion calendar.

In 1988, Takahashi enrolled at the prestigious Bunka college of Fashion. Apart from studying design, Takahashi was front man of the Tokyo Sex Pistols, an homage to the British renegades that had encapsulated his world only a few years prior. While in school, Takahashi was unsure of what to do, until he was dragged to a Comme des Garçons show. What Kawakubo could do with clothing—in terms of quality, drape, and art—was monumental. Shortly after the show, in either 1989 or 1990 (he claims he can’t remember), with the help of classmate Hinori Ichinose, Takahashi founded Undercover.