The ruched and twisted shapes, the sculptural pieces draped from wire – with the latest Y/Project collection, Glenn Martens revisits his greatest hits. “The whole idea of this brand is to reinvent techniques, construction, and to experiment as much as possible. That’s what we like to do,” he said backstage. Though the where-do-the-jeans-end-and-the-boots-begin question is sure to keep construction obsessives guessing, this collection was less oriented around pushing new shapes than it was in pumping up the surface interest of the clothes. Maybe because he is so well-versed in denim now at Diesel, it was the major leitmotif in this show. There were baggy jeans that buttoned up on themselves and boxy jean jackets, and even a faded denim caftan, but the real marvel was how Martens cut the material into thin biomorphic shapes, shredded it, and used it as embroidery – on everything from wool coats to clingy body-con dresses. A pair of tulle evening gowns, one in blush pink and the other in ivory, were also embellished with the denim shapes. They were the most delicate pieces ever to walk down a Y/Project runway.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
“It’s a bit like Gothic cathedrals, a Flemish vibe… like Bruges”, Glenn Martens described his spring-summer 2023 collection for Y/Project. Bruges is a tiny, ancient, weirdly beautiful city that never stops looking fresh because it was so madly built – depending on the time of day and the shape of your mood there are new angles of oddity everywhere. So Martens’s simile worked nicely. This stroll through Y/Project, held in the lush garden of an elite Parisian school on a raised gravel runway as shocked parakeets dashed above, combined his familiar symphonic weirdness with some stimulating fresh notes. The basenote remained distorted denim, imprinted with a so-cheesy-it’s-good Eiffel Tower logo that you wondered might be a gentle satire of the rumbustious graphics so favored at the designer’s day job at Diesel until he gently disambiguated that it had been in place here since 2013. There was a whole chapter of new trompe l’oeil pieces as a second season partnership with Jean Paul Gaultier. Instead of nudes this time the emphasis was on impressing the dressed-down – classic Y/Project jeans and vests and polos – on slips and rib-knits. There were hilarious flipped-finger earrings and four “evil baby” tops whose drawn-on distended bodies were based on a much-regretted tattoo on a drunk British guy that Martens had met while developing the collection. Possibly the most striking innovation of all – this season’s flying buttress – were the apparently impossible tank tops suspended at the shoulder by nearly invisible wiring. And yet the central architectural device underpinning all this seasonally-adjusted weirdness remained the malleable wire endoskeletons that allowed tailoring, denim, and alien eveningwear to be distorted into shockwave shapes. Like Bruges, it is worth revisiting again and again.
There was a lot to unpack in this men’s autumn-winter and women’s pre-fall 2022 Y/Project show. This must be why it was held in a spaceship-sized logistics artery on the northern edge of Paris that every day, all day, connects freight trains and trucks bringing goods into the city with 23 loading bays’ worth of courier vehicles. The epic venue offered beyond-enough room for social distancing. And it made for a runway so long that by my watch it took a full four minutes for the models to transit from one end to the other. Amongst the models were two fashion insiders that are close to Glenn Martens: Camille Bidault-Waddington and Olivier Theyskens. Theyskens said just before the show started: “Glenn proposed it to me. I know him and I love him. We work in the same neighborhood and we both come from Belgium.” The next highlight of the collection: the creative presence of Jean Paul Gaultier. Next week during the haute couture presentations, Martens will moonlight as a one-season only creative director for Jean Paul Gaultier. At this ready-to-wear show, Martens presented first hints of the dialogue: “We took one of his most iconic prints and we interpreted it in a Y/Project way. It’s very layered – you have men’s prints and women’s prints and they go on top of each other.” The trompe l’oeil body prints and penis pants that Martens was referring to, and which will be part of Y/Project’s Gaultier-facing ready-to-wear capsule, were certainly striking and worked well with the Belgian designer’s signature garment distortion.