Interview with Glenn Martens Y/Project
Text by Pirita Litmanen
Known for his own eponymous fashion label praised by the press, designer
Glenn Martens was appointed the Creative Director of Paris based fashion label Y/PROJECT, in Fall 2013.
Y/project was founded by Gilles Elalouf and Yohan Serfaty in 2011. How and when did you become part of the brand?
I had been working as the first assistant of Yohan, the original Creative Director (Y of Y/PROJECT) back in 2009. I therefore understood the essence of the label very well. After Yohan passed away in April 2013, Gilles called me up to see if I would be interested in carrying on the spirit of the label.
What is your background personally; what brought you to work with fashion and design?
I’m from Bruges, a peaceful and picturesque town in Flandres (Belgium). Growing up in such idyllic surroundings does affect your standards; you’re rarely pleased with present aesthetics.
I graduated as an Interior Architect at the age of 21. I felt much too young and irresponsible for entering the professional world. I had no idea what to do with my life.
I had heard about the infamous fashion academy in Antwerp and thought fashion could be funny, so I decided to attend the entrance exams.
I arrived straight from a music-festival, totally unprepared, with a few sketches of chairs and buildings. Against all my expectations, I got accepted.
The first months in Antwerp were horrible. I had no background, no knowledge. I had never heard of Margiela. I felt totally ridiculous sitting behind a sewing machine and had to work day and night to catch up with my classmates.
As the time passed I however developed a true passion and things started to work smoother.
There is a lot of brands falling into the category marked by designers like Rick Owens, which to outside, seems very dark and daring – Is that your aim or how do you actually see it from a designer’s point of view?
Yohan’s collections definitely fell into that category. Even though I do respect and appreciate the darker vibe of fashion I don’t want to propose another brand which follows these standards.
I do love the straight forward attitude and my creative world follows an elongated, sleek silhouette.
We will of course keep connection points to the historic brand but our statements are definitely evolving to something more technical and fun.
What in your opinion makes Y/PROJECT stand out?
The attitude! It´s about the attitude. Comfort is the ultimate base for a vibe which accentuates strength and power. It´s all about being straight forward – no bullshit.
The collections have been described as a mix of Belgian concept, French chic, and British cool. That’s exactly where I want to go. We’re living in a melting pot. I love to translate that duality and versatility in our garments.
Y/PROJECT was originally a menswear brand. You just released the first collection for women – why did you decide to add womenswear now?
The menswear collections were also very popular with our female costumers. We got a lot of requests to launch a full womenswear collection.
Furthermore we also just dig dressing the ladies!
How do you see yourself as a designer and creative – what makes you you?
I guess my design results in something dual and slightly schizophrenic.
On one side I’m very traditional. I love to work on tailoring. I follow the codes of classic elegance. I study these codes and push them to extremes. I will start designing through patterns and constructions. It’s a very rational and technical process.
On the other side I also follow basic impulses and design through emotions. This will result in more basic cuts with experimentation in material, color, fabric treatments or proportions.
What are the most important aspects of design for you? What shapes your creativity?
No matter which aesthetics a design will follow, as long as it goes to the essence, resulting to something honest, with a fresh perception, I’ll appreciate it.
Furthermore I do think I’m a bit of an outsider. I love my work and everything that goes with it, but most of my friends are not from the fashion industry. In exception to the fashion-weeks I therefore rarely mingle with the fashion-world. My scene are my friends. I guess it keeps me quite protected and free.
I still get overexcited about the most random things.
Anything! An unannounced performance at a gig, a print detail, an extravagant outfit, a free magazine or little appetizers.
How would you describe your personal aesthetic – what kind of visual atmosphere you enjoy the most?
Anything can inspire me. Some things of course touch me more than others. I discovered that most things I love often relate back to my personal view on the city where I grew up in. Bruges does have this unique vibe of a sleeping historic metropolis re-invented as a hotspot for mass-tourism. The aggression of neon lights and the overload of commercial souvenir-shops is bathing into the sleek shadows of the city’s gothic architecture. It’s clinch of opposite worlds fusing into a new surreal reality. I love everything that’s a bit “off”. Like the metro. I love watching people, I imagine new constructions and concepts based on the 30 year old trench the cute granny in front of me is wearing. I don’t go searching for inspiration, it just comes. It can be a crappy Youtube -video, a concert, a film… or some destroyed statue in a cemetery.
What can we expect for the future of Y/PROJECT?