The intersection of masculinity and femininity come to a head for French label, Y/Project. Belgian designer Glenn Martens has taken the starting point that his predecessor, Yohan Serfaty initiated and expounded on the then only menswear line to include women into the mix. The alternative minimal nature of the line tends to be just as fluid when it comes to inspiration as it is in being gender-specific. “We take any references we like regardless of era or subculture,” Martens breaks down. “The red thread is this quirky mix of anything. It’s all quite an emotional process. There’s no rule, it just happens, we do what we want and try to find some balance in between the extremes.” Martens fearlessly takes the familiar and stretches it out into something remarkably new, creating an unexplored lane all for himself, a feat, he regrets, that is quite difficult in fashion’s current state. “I guess that’s why I’m constantly pushing my limits, in search for whatever is frightening or challenging. We often take elements we initially don’t like and try to re-interpret them into something we love. During fittings we’re constantly questioning ourselves if we’re crossing the line or not.” That toeing of the line has paid off with an endorsement from Rihanna and a buzz that has unquestionably sparked the interest of the industry’s vanguard.
“I guess that’s why I’m constantly pushing my limits, in search for whatever is frightening or challenging. We often take elements we initially don’t like and try to re-interpret them into something we love. During fittings we’re constantly questioning ourselves if we’re crossing the line or not.”
Martens got his start studying in Antwerp at the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts. The academy did well to cultivate its students without infringing on their ideals. The designer recollects, “I didn’t have the feeling they impose any artistic direction. They really pushed you to develop your own language. It’s a never-ending story of re-doing what you’ve started, dissect what you came up with and understanding what and why it is ‘you.’” During his final year he was recruited for a junior designer position at Jean Paul Gaultier. It was no wonder then that after graduation, while weighing the option between working for someone else first or himself, felt like an easy choice. “There’s no way you can predict all the shit that’s coming your direction if you haven’t been rolling in a company before,” Martens says. “I worked for an established French house, a young independent designer and in fast fashion before starting my own brand. I felt this good mix of anything prepared me quite well for the business.” After Serfaty died of cancer in 2013, Martens inherited the creative director role and slowly unveiled his new design aesthetic, evolving the established precedent of “sleek, elongated and tough” menswear design and moving the label towards being 50% unisex. As far as the LVMH prize nomination goes, the designer remains humble to the core exclaiming, “I’m trying as much as possible not to have expectations so the only thing I know now is that it´s great to be in the finals!” Great, indeed.