Interview by Stuart Brumfitt / Photography by Emma Le Doyen
How one designer harnessed the rebirth of Paris and the spirit of Gaultier to rise to the top of European fashion
Paris feels like it’s having a moment and Y/Project’s creative director, 33-year-old Glenn Martens, agrees. “Definitely. It’s really blooming. When I moved here it was a very different city. Now there are so many new platforms for partying, music and art.” The bleach-haired Belgian designer mentions new nights like Champs Libres and Péripate, Berlin-style 24-hour raves taking place outside Paris’s traditional centre, beyond the Périphérique. And in the area around Y/Project’s studio in Château d’Eau – a place that’s always buzzed with African hairdressers, shops and restaurants – there’s a new, diverse youth energy.
This explosion of sub-culture has of course had an impact on the city’s fashion. Although Paris has long been the capital to end all other fashion capitals with its grand houses of Chanel, Vuitton and Dior, smaller brands and young designers have often suffocated, rarely making their mark. But now, along with the sweet success of Simon Porte Jacquemus’s Jacquemus and the dark, underground energy of Demna Gvasalia’s Vêtements (Martens was a fit model for Gvasalia at fashion school), menswear and womenswear brand Y/Project is grabbing headlines and shifting pieces.
Martens took it on in 2013, turning it from a Rick Owens-lite label into one of the most anticipated shows on Paris’s fashion calendar. In recent shows for both men and women, Martens has created new silhouettes with billowing sleeves, gathered trousers and clever cut-outs. He’s played with flaps, straps, poppers and ruffles. He’s used fabrics including raw-edged denim, shearling, sheers and silk moiré. The shows have been bold, disorientating and a little bit scary – everything that something new and
sub-cultural should be.