He has a systematic approach with no system. This is what seems to be behind the success of Y/Project, headed by Glenn Martens. The mastermind behind the label and LVMH Prize nominee took on the role of Creative Director of Y/Project in 2013, after the cofounder, Yohan Serfaty, passed away. Glenn also won the Grand Prize at the Andam Fashion Awards and got a mentorship from Francesca Bellettini, President and AD of Yves Saint Laurent. The brand has nevertheless grown from seasons to season and has solidified its place in what can be called the Parisian Renaissance, alongside Vetements and Jaquemus amongst the others, which is really shaking up the way we consider fashion by looking at streetwear and couture at the same time. Y/ Project epitomises a postmodern mash-up of romanticism, tailoring, and the iconic streets of the 90s. For the recent fall season, Glenn pumped up the volume with a maximal approach to silhouette, putting together a masterful duality of royal historical references and hip hop icons; the perfect image for Y/Project’s cult following.
Who is the man you design for?
For sure he’s an eclectic man with no age. There’s a streetwear vibe of course but also classical elements, conceptual structures and shapes, and a sort of transformability in our clothing. You can reverse jackets, zip or unzip pants in different ways; it empowers you to change the way you dress according to your mood. We are indeed all made of different people at one time.
How would you describe your approach to fashion?
There’s no specific rule, it just comes about by watching people in the streets around us. I like to observe how clothes affect your attitude when you wear them. So we take whatever references we want, regardless of eras or subcultures. This quirky mix of anything it is the only fil rouge, really; we do what we want and try to find some balance and convincing output along the way.
If you have to pick your trademarks what would they be?
We flirt with proportions, urban vibes, historical references and play with elongated silhouettes. I like to look at things in many different ways.
What makes Y/Project such a successful and praised brand?
I work on honesty; delivering honest and very straightforward collections. I don’t follow any paths other than just finding inspiration that I can turn into something that I love. Beauty in fashion can come about for no specific reason. I never look at what other brands do but I do like to be connected to our audience and understand what they think.
Your denim really stands out as beautifully provocative. Do you consider it a key element in the collections?
For sure we try to use it as one of the richest elements in the collections. It adds value and suggests a different use of proportions so can be treated as couture pieces. Other than that, I don’t like to focus on one segment of the collection. There’s also always, for example, a kind of pervasive tailoring involved with different garments using silk and jersey.
Photographer| Edoardo DeRuggiero
Stylist| Nicholas Galletti
Hair| Azumi Higaki
Make up| Constance Haond
Model| Rodrigue D @ M Management
How do you translate your passions to your designs?
Before studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp I had a degree in interior architecture, so design and structure are very much part of my background. I come from Bruges, a town known for its beautiful gothic architecture, so my memories also shape my aesthetics; the austerity, the elegance, the construction, the opulence. I also find Venice to be the most beautiful city in the world – a nevralgic epicentre for arts. I went to the opening of the Biennale in June. It’s a moment I never miss in order to develop ideas, though my ideas can also come from something like clubbing in Berlin or hiking in the nature. I recently really appreciated a trip to Scotland because I believe that direct contact with nature is essential for me; it keeps me grounded and sets my mind free.
What was the concept behind your last collection?
It was all about a sophisticated and versatile 90s vibe with a bit of nostalgia. I consider that era the best period to explore, so the collection referenced California and European royalty of the past with deconstructed fake furs, bomber jackets, parkas and jersey shirts. It was about these all enigmatic and intriguing characters – meets – the rap kings of the 90s. There were oversized fleece sweatshirts with extended shoulder lines with jeans laced at the back and front with gold chains. Also, oversized leather trenches cinched with lots of buckles, and pants with wired piping creating volume and texture that carried through the collection. I also looked at football knits and t-shirts, and scarves with Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn, Napoleon & Josephine, Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette, and a surrealist sculpture used as an ornament, referring to my alma mater, Antwerp.
What role does social media play in this business?
It’s reality and we need to embrace it completely. Social strategies can make fortunes for a brand in terms of both communications and sales. I also like the idea that I can use Instagram as a form of research by following people that I don’t know but who have something interesting to say.
Y/Project has a cult following. Can you explain why you think this is?
I feel very blessed that a lot of people are following us. We are a small, new brand. I took over the label in 2013 and since then we have grown, but not too much. I try to stay focus and intuitive, and feed my followers with an emotional approach. I’m not planning on making big collections for now.
Your work has often been described as: conceptual, couture, sexy and cool. If you can pick one definition for Y/Project, what would it be?
It blends many different things by challenging and celebrating diversity. It’s a melting pot of contrasting elements that somehow create harmony. And this is something that I really like.
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