Y/Project’s Glenn Martens unveiled his vision of Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture—the second designer to do so, after Chitose Abe of Sacai last season – and it appeared to be a heavenly match. What makes this collection so magical, so right and so much fun? It’s an escapist exercise in what you can do when you’re let loose in the wunderateliers that are the Gaultier workrooms. Plus, as we all well know, Martens knows how to make a brilliant and inventive silhouette. One of the looks he was furiously working on is a Breton marinière which has been turned into a dress and then hand-embroidered to ripple 3D-style with hundreds of faux coral fronds. The sailor stripes are pure Gaultier, yet the twists to this dress – the folded-over shoulder line, the knit panel which sinuously and unexpectedly juts out from the left hip – are pure Martens at Y/Project. “I am only doing this for one season, so it’s not like I have to envision a whole new future for the house; that’s a very different exercise,” Martens said. “This is a celebration of Gaultier. I’ve stayed close to the woman Jean Paul created in the past—pure diva goddess beauty, hips, whatever, all that drama he loved. I’m building on that through what I think of his iconic Gaultier moments. This marinière…it’s so him, but I completely fucked it up with all the fake coral spikes. I’m reinventing those iconic moments in my own way.” That’s what makes Martens’s version of Gaultier couture fly: the acknowledgement that it can’t be a retread of the past glories of one of fashion’s greatest designers, but instead honor what went before and incorporate the best of yourself. It is not C as in collaboration ( a word which is looking increasingly passé) but C as in conversation, a constant state of respectfully going back and forth between incoming designer and the heritage of the house.
That marinière dress was sandwiched between a series of corseted jacquard knit looks, whose body molding striations recall ’90s Gaultier and plenty of gorgeous, ethereal evening dresses, confections of chiffon selvedge, whose lightness were amplified by the ferocious ingenuity of their barely visible inner constructions. One, in black chiffon across a delicately pale pink corset, was a particular knockout. The interaction between the two visions continued with an evening gown in a boudoir-y, peignoir-y ’30s peach which looked like a deconstructed corset, the lacing asymmetrically blown up across the billowing skirts, while a cream knit sweater dress featured cable panels that intersected, baring a little skin along the way. Elsewhere, those wired experimental volumes Martens loves so much figured prominently, in red velvet or green taffeta, as did a wink-wink to Y/Project with the Y shaping of the hips on some of his silhouettes, his own version of the classic hourglass but reimagined for today. Martens was drafted in to do this collection two years ago, so because of the pandemic, it has been in gestation for a while. Yet, despite that, it feels hardwired to the moment. While it will very likely appeal to Gaultier couture loyalists, it will also speak to today’s fashion-savvy IG generation who applaud every big gesture and historically savvy flourish.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.