y/project is showing a new side to paris

With an exclusive preview of Y/Project’s spring/summer 18 film, i-D talks with Creative Director Glenn Martens about the evolution of Paris and the influence of Belgium.

by Bojana Kozarevic
15 December 2017, 12:06pm

Y/Project spring/summer 18. Photography Mitchell Sams. 

Since taking over the role as Creative Director of Y/Project in 2013, Belgian designer Glenn Martens has guided the trajectory of the Parisian brand, which has developed in tandem with the burgeoning of a new creative era in The City of Lights.

The brand is a harmony of romance and experimentation, the party and afterparty. It’s cool, it’s chic. This is down to Glenn Martens’s capacity for nuance and understanding of both what fabric can do and what people actually want it to do on their body. As we share an exclusive film from Y/Project directed by Grégoire Dyer, we speak to Glenn to get a bit of his fashion wisdom.

On the rebirth of Paris…
“I've lived here nine years and it's a different city now: Previously Paris just didn't have big levels of experimentation, not in fashion or music. It was very much ruled by the big institutions. These big houses ruled for a long time, and there was no one giving a shit about the younger ones. In the last two years it's changed. Historically, all of the alternative scenes were outside of the city suburbs. But something happened, people opened up. That really gave a lot of freedom and fresh air. It’s a very nice moment to live here. The whole city has had a wake up call.”

On the influence of Belgium...
“There's a whole Margiela school, and the generation that grew up with it. It's a way of thinking -- it is to always play with the unexpected, and many designers copy and paste (in a complementary way). That is something a lot of us designers definitely do and I have no problem in saying that. Belgium definitely has a big impact on me. It's not a beautiful country, it's one that's been over-ruled and has belonged to other countries. When you work in a country like that, you have to look for beauty and you have to find it in the corners. You have to shine a different spotlight. So something that we really try to do at Y/Project is go around the corners and find the more unexpected view of things.”

On the impact of contemporary culture on design...
“In the past, people had to travel for experience, and collections were often based on [a designer's] personal journey and travels. It gave people the dream. And now, luckily, things are much more democratic. All those things that [most] people couldn't see or reach are now seen. But it becomes less exciting. We now have to glorify something else. We're glorifying subcultures, the idea of ‘low-brow’, and actually it's a difficult thing to be doing. People are glorifying the struggle and the people that are actually struggling. People don't dare to go to the darker places of society directly, they judge and create from their point of luxury and privilege.”

On the importance of individuality...
“We really want to push individuality. We try to push individual spirits. The collection plan is always extremely varied so we have pieces for all different kinds of people. We go from tailoring, to cocktail, to couture, to jeans. There’s so many different people out there, and I love that. I’m inspired by people with a very personal identity, and who interpret things their own way. In my life I'm also very eclectic, I love dark romance, clubs, but also the metro and trekking in Scotland… the reality of life.”

glenn martens