There are really only a handful of designers from Belgium one can name without precise knowledge, but each one of them has become an essential figure on how we now view and approach fashion in the current early years of the 21st century.
This includes The Antwerp Six; Walter Van Beirendonck, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, Marina Yee and Ann Demeulemeester who now stand alongside Martin Margiela, Raf Simons, Kris Van Assche, Olivier Theyskens, and Dries Van Noten just to name a few with most of them relocating to Paris. Their aesthetics run from minimal to expressively avant-garde, but overall there’s a feeling of forwardness exploration with an affair to classical construction to their design philosophy.
The young Belgian native designer Glenn Martens shares similarities to his fellow Belgian colleagues. In the past, he’s worked with Bruno Pieters on his collection for Weekday owned by the H&M Group and was a junior designer for Jean-Paul Gaultier right after graduating top-class from the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts – Antwerp. In 2012 he made a name for himself after launching his own, now eponymous, womenswear line, and as of November of 2013 he’s been serving as the Creative Director for the Parisian based luxury menswear brand Y/Project, a label he’s been a part of since its inception in 2010 when it was founded by his former mentor Yohan Serfaty who passed away a few months before Martens took over.
His first collection for Y/Project debuted early this year at Paris Fashion Week and it only took a quick glance at Marten’s designs to not be surprised that he had studied architecture before switching to fashion. His intelligent constructions are innovative, functional, fluidly elegant, and sporty. They are thoughtful, flushed out pieces that not only give great poise but as well as a tough attitude. He was also able to successfully transfer this methodology to Y/Project’s first-ever womenswear pieces where some of the androgynous designs took on a modern, dark-yet-feminine, sophistication – a welcomed extension to Y/Project’s DNA. Glenn Martens was able to carry on what Yohan Serfaty left behind and respectively elevated it to other conceptual broader regions.
The Paris based designer was gracious enough to give ASTHTC the following interview.
How did growing up in Bruges influence you and what have you learned now that you are based in Paris?
Bruges is basically a village, it’s totally secluded. While growing up you’re freed of trends and hypes. I guess on one side this can be handicapping as you’re definitely not as updated as the kids growing up in capitals or metropoles. On the other side it keeps you very protected and innocent. after leaving your hometown everything is still to be discovered, it’s extremely challenging. Still now I get overexcited about the most random things.
What are the Belgian aesthetics you think Parisians are drawn to?
The cliché about the Belgians is that we’re supposed to be low profile and ( sometimes too ) rational. I guess that’s our strength. No matter which aesthetics we stand for, we tend to go to the essence, we stick to the concept, aiming for an effortless and honest design.
What are the challenges of taking over a brand whose founder and someone you closely worked with passes away?
We of course went through a very emotional season. It was a fragile and sensitive process, focussing on something new, while the team was still going through grief. We focussed on all the beautiful things Yohan left behind and chose to see these as the starting points of our reinforced codes.
How would you describe the vibe of Y/Project?
It’s about attitude. I want people to feel good in our clothes. Comfort is the ultimate base for a vibe who accentuates strength and power. It’s all about being straight foreword… no bullshit.
What was behind the decision making of creating the first women’s line for Y/Project?
Because we also dig dressing the ladies!
Do you have a specific woman in mind when you design?
Y/PROJECT is all about versatility, both in comfort as in look.
I dress the women I love. Women who I’ll club with through the night, a woman who jumps on her bike to go to work where she’s sealing this year’s deal, later runs for a massage before fetching the kids at school. She has beer after champagne. On Sunday she’ll wonder through exhibitions before joining my 90 year old grandmother for tea and cupcakes at “Le Meurice.” She nails every situation.
Y/Project released a very beautiful short film to coincide with the AW14 collection – What was the message of the video?
For the first visual of the “regenerated” brand I worked with my extremely talented friend Arnaud Lajeunie. He managed to capture the mood of what I stated for Y/PROJECT in perfection. Arnaud imagined a series of visual concepts which he shot on the spot. Everything you see is real, no photoshopping or any other postproduction was added. It’s about continuation, rebirth, reality. It’s open to any-one.
What is your creative process when you begin a collection?
It starts with a series of questions: what do I want? What do they want? what would make me happy? what will make them feel happy?
What defines “luxury” to you?
Freedom on all stages.
What do you do to clear your mind from so much fashion and design?
I’m blessed living the life I have. I don’t need to get rid of anything …which does not mean late night whiskey’s are not welcome.