y/project subvert the catwalk experience with the most lo-fi immersive show experience possible
In a democratic show powered by the people, a 3000-strong crowd provided the lighting as Glenn Martens pushed possibilities at Pitti Immagine.
Photography Giovanni Giannoni
Glenn Martens, the man that brought us the famously fugly yet oh-so-fabulous thigh-high UGG boots and continually ignites imaginations with his reconstructed elevations of the everyday, took over one of Florence’s most exquisite churches and asked the 3000-strong crowd of fashion insiders, students, and locals sat inside the cloisters of Santa Maria Novella to shine a flashlight onto Y/Project’s twisted autumn/winter 19 reality.
Without audience participation, the show would’ve passed by in the shadows but thankfully, enough of the audience put down their iPhones and picked up their gifted torches. The result was a brave fashion show like no other. “We wanted people to enjoy the moment,” the Bruges-born, Paris-based creative force explained post show. “Ultimately, you as a collective chose what you saw.” Powered by the people, power to the people, 2019 already belongs to the Y/Project revolution.
From the moment he replaced the late Yohan Serfaty at Y/Project in 2013, the former Jean Paul Gaultier junior designer turned a label in mourning into one of Paris’ most dynamic forces. In recent seasons, the Paris-based unisex label has walked the tightrope of taste, pushing possibilities as it alternates between sensory-disturbing ugliness and imagination-igniting creativity by elevating the familiar to the unexpected. This show had all of this and more. Unshackled from the fashion show system of Paris, Glenn used his key to Florence to defy expectation, dismantle exclusionary structures and open his world to a new audience. “As a guest designer at Pitti, you have the luxury of being able to make an experience out of it,” he explained, this experience built around the democratic nature of Pitti Immagine being a fair in which anyone can come. “Alongside the official 500 Pitti guests, it was important for us to invite with students and local people that work in the various cultural institutions across the city.”
So, in the darkness of Florence’s most sacred of sanctuaries, 3000 people experience Y/Project autumn/winter 19 together.
“It was important for us to celebrate the beauty of Florence and for there to be crossovers between fashion, art, and history,” he explained. Long before the first twisted-seamed tailored opening look and the overriding opulence of the reimagined Renaissance men and women that followed, guests were able to rediscover the history of Italian art as flashlights illuminated everything from Giotto’s painted crucifix to Masaccio’s fresco of the Holy Trinity. While the collection itself had been largely finished before the invitation from Pitti had been submitted, the setting could not have been more fitting. We’re not sure what the 13th century Dominican Order monks that founded the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella would have made of the shape-shifting silhouetted figures that walked in their footsteps but the multiple personalities that made up Y/Project autumn/winter 19 appeared right at home. From mobsters to Michael Jackson enthusiasts (shamone to the trompe l’oeil black-and-white sock boots), the country club to the office, sweaty dance floors to charity balls, Glenn and his studio team of 7 created a collage of everyday and otherworldly characters. Deconstruction and disproportion remained guiding principles of this collection with signature pieces such as the double-shoulder polos, multi-layered dresses, and twisted sportswear complimented by more tailored looks than ever. Just as Glenn proved that the Y/Project woman could be both provocative and chic last season, his man was able to challenge the status quo in a suit.
“Y/Project itself is about eclecticism and a diversity of people that we love,” he reminded us post-show. “We try to stay away from stereotypes and instead celebrate multiple personalities, so we have pieces for all different kinds of people.” Ultimately, Y/Project not only provides the wardrobe for a diverse collective of individuals, but it empowers them to wear them how they please. “So many of our clothes are constructed in a way that encourages the wearer to change them, twist them, and style them in the way they feel most comfortable, which emphasises this idea of owning something. Rather than one size fits all, it’s one jacket can be seven.” Now, that’s fashion democracy.