If you happen to follow Honest By’s founder Bruno Pieters on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll have seen a tantalizing image on his feeds of late: a headshot of Person Unknown with a box obscuring his/her face, and the date 19.10.17, teasing the label’s latest collaboration. So, perhaps no need for the drum roll for the big reveal, given the headline of this story already gives it away, but Glenn Martens of Y/Project is the latest designer to work with Pieters on his own project. (Yep, you likely already guessed that, given the obscured face’s tufty blonde crop and chin stubble.) Since its inception in 2009, Honest By has challenged industry thinking of where things are made, what they’re made of, and how much (usually way too much) is being charged for them; an impeccably cool and impeccably credentialed prod of the conscience, as it were.
In the case of this latest collaboration, that means a six-strong capsule of re-imagined seasonless and gender-free Y/Project pieces from the Spring and Fall 2017 collections—a trench, a striped shirt, articulated jeans, a sweatshirt/dress, a turtleneck top, and skirt-cum-pants—all of which are produced in France, with every element of their execution, fabrics, finishings, the lot, traceable back to their sources of origin. Everything also carries the GOTS tag, which means the pieces are made to the Global Organic Textile Standard. “There’s a lot of talk about sustainability these days,” Pieters said over the phone from Antwerp, where he’s based, “but it means nothing without transparency.” Everything, in other words, is naked and unafraid—including, it has to be said, the reminder of how sharp and assured Martens is as a designer, after coming off a run of stellar Y/Project shows.
“Bruno has been a mentor to me—we go way back,” says Martens, and indeed they do; Pieters tutored him while he was at Antwerp’s Royal Academy, before hiring him to consult on the European H&M offshoot Weekday, and then asking him to design the first Honest By collection, so things have gone full circle. For Martens, Pieters was a designer whose work exemplified “a level of craftsmanship we don’t find that easily in fashion today.”
Clearly those standards haven’t slackened, for this capsule doesn’t sacrifice any of the inventive detailing and interactivity typical of Y/Project—the double construction of the shirting, the detachable legs on the buccaneer denim, the broad double shoulder line on the trenchcoat. Some of the materials used for the new pieces switched, with that trench now in gabardine, not leather. The experience has also been eye-opening for Martens, fueling him to think more about his own label’s actions and accountability. “We are very much aware of where we produce, and while I wouldn’t say we are totally certified in terms of fabrics, we’re trying,” he says, listing how when he arrived at Y/Project, 80 percent of the collection was leather, while now, he says, “the only leather in the Spring 2018 collection are the shoes.”
As for Pieters, it may only be a collaboration of six pieces, but the impact of it can be far greater. “People who are interested need to be encouraged,” he says. “There aren’t a lot of role models for young designers interested in sustainability, just Stella McCartney, really, and that’s it. Glenn is still maybe more niche than that, but I think he is going to have an impact.”