“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.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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.
“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.