In the lush mountains of Nagano, Japan, four Team Gira runners solemnly train near the storied Togakushi Shrine. Concealed by the surrounding forest’s mystical 900-year-old cedar trees, they are a tonal flash—a modern incarnation of the storied ninjutsu, or ninja, who in olden days used the dramatic terrain for ascetic schooling. Pursuant of the ancient art’s mission: to arrive at enlightenment through perseverance, endurance and patience, the runners rely upon meditation and their advanced equipment—meticulously adapted to the specific needs of running—as they ascend.
Convertible jackets with detachable sleeves and Durable Water Repellent (DWR) fabric adapt to the changing climate while underarm slits and laser-cut ventilation simultaneously address cooling needs. Strategically placed drawstrings, elastic binding, thumb holes and stretch cuffs provide wind protection and keep the pieces firmly in place. Concealed zip pockets combine with an innovative marriage of materials and construction—like underarm stretch gussets—that adapts to a runner’s natural stride.
Ultimately arriving at Omoide no Oka (The Memorable Hill) to mark a new start and the renewal of their love for running, the team looks out over the celebrated valley below. Like the ninjutsu before them, they draw strength from the earth and harness their destiny.
For Holiday 2012, his fifth season designing Nike x Undercover Gyakusou, Jun Takahashi continues his exploration of the true meaning of Gyakusou, which literally translates to “running in reverse.” Titling the collection Autumn Monks, Takahashi captures Nagano’s pristine nature, including the cedar trees—which he explains, “make me feel the history of Japan and Japanese culture”—with a unique camouflage-like pattern of autumnal leaves. The connection to nature is re-emphasized in the collection’s subtle palette of rich purple, slate grey, saturated blue, deep red and black, what the designer explains as the “traditional or natural colors of Japan.” Along with employing the aforementioned high-tech, running-specific details across the entire collection, Takahashi also adapts the garments to meet the respective needs of women and men.
In the women’s collection, a pleated Convertible Skirt paired with long tights recognizes a need for uninhibited movement and coverage while celebrating a uniquely female aesthetic, as do softened shades and slim cuts, which debut in a Convertible Jacket with detachable sleeves, a Lightweight Jacket with gathered sleeves for elbow articulation, a Sweat Hoodie, and Dri-Fit Short- and Long-Sleeve Tops made for layering. Thoughtful design details, like semi-sheer mesh paneling, anatomic seaming and pin-tucks elevate the technology, which is matched by the women’s Nike Free V3 running shoe in complementary hues.
Addressing male running requirements, the men’s collection’s Mixed Short, Lightweight Jacket and Convertible Jacket emphasize a pioneering mix of materials, tailored silhouettes and slightly bolder tones. Meanwhile, the Swift Long Tights, Outlast Knit Cap, Wool Bonded Hoodie and Dri-Fit Short- and Long-Sleeve Tops create a core base for the colder seasons, each fashioned to collaborate with the male anatomy and maximize performance—as do corresponding iterations of the Lunar Speed Lite + JP and Men’s Nike Free V3 running shoes.
To visually communicate the Autumn Monks story and the collection’s overall inspiration, Takahashi, film/art director Tetsuya Nagato and photographer Katsuhide Morimoto traveled to Togakushi, where they filmed the team’s journey, employing a purposeful juxtaposition of sharp and soft focus shots and washed-out color to add a touch of retro to the film’s otherwise documentarian character. This otherworldly, transcendental ambiance follows the team as they arrive at their campground under the cover of night and transition from a contemporary morning to a timeless spiritual and athletic quest, communing with nature as they go and ultimately arriving at a moment of awakening.