This season at Y/Project, the biggest news is the collaboration with Fila. Glenn Martens‘ worked around the sporstwear items made in co-operation with the Italian giant, staying true to himself – there just wouldn’t be a Y/Project line-up without his distorted twists and trompe l’oeil doublings that build the brand’s aesthetics. Some of the latest developments? Take the braided knits that rose from the waist to tangle at the neckline in order to allow the wearer to rearrange the garment in various permutations according to inclination. As Martens said: “You have to choose where exactly to put your head within it: we always try to push people to experiment with the garments and really embrace them and have fun with them.” Double mini-dresses could be worn with the organza top layer pulled down for a more classic look, or pulled up by drawstring for a broken effect. Bucket bags came structured, as did many of the garments, with wire inserts that invited the carrier to reshape their architecture as they pleased. The ‘Melissa’ shoes, in rubber, were the chicest vegan beach-ready footwear you will ever see. A red Fila tracksuit cut in with white branding was rearrangeable via popper to allow you to dictate how much logo you were flashing. Look 33’s skirt was in fact a pant, with a hole to the top left of the garment that the wearer had ejected her leg from. A men’s short-sleeved shirt came with a series of panels whose arrangement demanded that you decide whether you preferred pattern or plain, while some awesome gowns in jersey and velvet could be worn in multiple ways. Y/Project clothes are like a box of hard puzzles – they are demanding, sophisticated, but once you fall in love with them, there’s satisfaction.
Y/Project‘s Glenn Martens makes his visual brand for the brand so distinct, that sometimes you wish he surprised with a completely new direction. But then, consistence is key to success, especially in times of global crisis. The pandemic has pushed Martens to unify his men’sand women’s ready-to-wear collections into one. It’s a smart move for many brands. With his new post as Diesel’s creative director, showing less will allow Martens and his team time to refine their craft and push the boat out even further. But back to autumn-winter 2021: majority of the 64 looks on display are threaded with metal wiring which is integrated directly into the fabric, allowing the wearer to scrunch, swirl and bend their garments into whatever shape they desire. It’s a technique Martens introduced a few seasons ago, turning oversized shirts, opera gowns and the brand’s signature denim into ultra-versatile pieces. XXXL polo shirts circle around the models’s bodies; shirts appear frozen in a snapshot, mid-motion, like the wearer is trying to rip it off their torso. The art of distortion is Glenn’s signature – and it’s being knocked off by so, so many designers. My personal highlight of the line-up is the eveningwear, a territory Martens likes to gradually discover each season. Those draped column dresses and flowing skirts are glamorous, but in an off-kilter, Y/Project manner. The collection is tied together with the brand’s on-going collaboration with Canada Goose, which this season includes a couture-like rain cape. Topping off the look is some Cinderella-like glass slippers that are actually made of rubber, courtesy of sustainable Brazilian label Melissa.
Y/Project gets a bit repetitive – which, in a way, makes Glenn Martens‘ mastership of exaggerated distortion so distict and consistent. And offering a product that utterly reflects your brand is every brand’s priority today. “I had to adapt to a new system, and a new way of working,” Martens told Vogue. “I was thinking, What’s the core of the clothing I make? At the end of the day, it’s to make people happy. The biggest thing you can do now is to bring emotion, because people want what they wear to stand for something.” You could say that that has been a constant ethos of his. Martens has always found joy in making fashion, and that attitude shines through in his work. It’s what makes his clothes – complex designs, often layered in their construction and laden with historical references – fundamentally so intriguing. That inventiveness of his comes laced with a generosity of spirit and a healthy dash of much needed humor. Spring-summer 2021 is no exception. Martens has consolidated much of what he has achieved this past seven years at Y/Project. To anyone who’s a fan of his playful denim, or his clever, interactive knits, there are the likes of bedazzled marbled gray or pristine white jeans, both with those saucy deep-V trompe l’oeil waistbands he loves, or sweaters that would be classic were it not for their askew collars which can be altered at their wearer’s will; this time around one of those might be paired with a new trouser shape he has developed which mimics a silk sarong. The latter might not exactly be for the faint of fashion heart, but they’re a gutsy (and cheeky) response to the moment we’re in, part of what he describes as the collection’s “less serious, less drama” new mood. There are pant suits that can be transformed by being unbuttoned or unlayered. Polo dresses which, via the miracle of their drawstrings, can go from Zoom office to going out – or whatever will constitute that in the months to come; maybe you’ll just vamp it up at home. Meanwhile, a faux-leather trench delivers a serious hit of glam, something echoed by the collection’s flamboyant mules or lace booties. Still, it’s an off-kilter kind of glam, one that’s hardly obvious or expected. Sex & The City wardrobe in 2020, eventually facing the end of the world.
Business really isn’t as usual in the times of COVID-19 (and even in the “post” moment that’s now in Europe). Traditionally, end of June and beginning of July is the the moment for all the resort and men’s collections, and in general this time of the year is a sort of “summer September” of fashion. But not entirely in 2020. Showroom visits for the press and buyers are done via Zoom only. Majority of collections feel very safe and are based on the brand’s signatures. Still, some of the line-ups impress, and moreover, appear to be some of the best work coming from the designer in a while. Glenn Martens‘ Y/Project is a great example of how crisis and chaos can bring new ideas and trigger a kind of brand evolution. Martens’ innovatively constructed, apparently woozily skewed garments whose conventional templates are drawn from across the demographic landscape of womenswear and menswear, are brain-bending at first glimpse, and often only make sense upon second look. “Obviously, these looks are distorted, and that is part of the fun of the brand. But most of them you can wear calmed down. Have you seen the video?”, he told Vogue. This season, instead of holding a menswear fashion show, Martens worked to create a video show-and-tell for Y/Project newbies that he said was partially inspired from the opening scene of Dangerous Liaisons, in which Glenn Close is laboriously installed into her pannier dress. Here Martens and two colleagues show how looks from these jointly digitally presented collections can be worn; take a fitted, ruched-body womenswear jacket, pull a drawstring, and – ta-da! – you have a full-length dress. Or reach into the innards of a louchely cut suit and – voilà! – you have a double-layered look with a new denim foundation. Martens concluded: “It’s a kind of lava lamp of looks… showing how you can personalize your clothes and how you can make it look as crazy as you want or you can tone it down as much as you want.” The collections here are around a third the size of a normal-times Y/Project offering, and Martens said that the restrictions of lockdown meant that many of the pieces were hewn from deadstock. The collection includes past designs that have been redesigned and upgraded to be even more twisty the second time around. This is a virtue, as is that distorted adaptability that is at the core of Martens’s work – for what could be more sustainable than a single garment that you can wear in a multitude of ways? Also, as the press was informed, Martens discussed Evergreen, which is the title of a new all-sustainable collection of core Y/Project pieces that will start with a launch of 16 pieces online in September, and then be added to going forward. “It’s a selection of garments, which I believe can go into your wardrobe forever. And we also decided to only make them in the most basic materials which are not at all oriented to a season, so it’s really black, white, and denim.” These garments are not “basics” – the initial lineup includes Y/Project’s much-socialed, super-skimpy, jean/panty “janty” hybrid – and bear all the usual twisty codes of Martens’s design-eye, including rotating-collar shirts and hoiked-shoulder blazers. Looking forward to see it!
Y/Project‘s creative director Glenn Martens is known to walk the tightrope between good taste and bad, usually pulling from a grab bag of wide-ranging pop cultural and historical references. In his hands, fashion moments from the early 2000s can easily bump up against those from the 1500s. The designer has borrowed from the architecture of Elizabethan armor to refigure the classic blue jean in the past, and for autumn-winter 2020 he took that risqué, deep-V silhouette into more refined territory. His version of a classic tuxedo was elongated along the body, with a blazer turned bodysuit that fit neatly between each suspended trouser leg (as Martens explained, a hidden belt and secret cycling shorts were responsible for the floating effect on these pants). In Y/Project’s collections, it’s the subtle twists and turns that stand out the most. Martens has perfected his askew approach to tailoring, as evidenced in the sleek opening look. But in general, it seems to me that Martens’ work starts to get repetitive: it used to spark more intrigue in his previous seasons. Maybe it’s just a phase.