Glenn Martens on How Far Y/Project Has Come

Under the dim glow of the moon, before the 15th century cloisters and the facade of Florence's Santa Maria Novella church, Glenn Martens staged his hotly anticipated show as Pitti Uomo 95's guest designer.

Glenn Martens at the Y/Project Fall/Winter 2019 show in Florence. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

An homage to the grandeur of Florence and its masterpieces, Martens invited 3000 guests that included students, locals, museum employees, artists, and, of course, fashion insiders. His Fall/Winter 19 runway show proved to be one of his most poetic shows of all.

NOWFASHION caught up with Martens backstage after the show to discuss just how far Y/Project has come.

How do you feel Y/Project has changed since you started working with the late Yohan Serfaty, the founder of the brand?

It’s a very different brand. The thing is, Y/Project was a designers’ brand basically. Y/Project is Yohan and the other way around. He was a fitting model.  He was basically only wearing his brand all the time. It was really connected to his personality and, of course, when the most important person, the center point of the brand, goes away there, is no way of continuing that. The different thing I did with Y/Project is that it is now more a house brand because it’s not linked to my personality. Of course, I’m the creative director, but we talk to so many different kinds of people. We try to talk to a diversity of society. That is the difference between Yohan’s approach and my approach.

Backstage at the Y/Project Fall/Winter 2019 show in Florence. Photos by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

How do you cope with the dualism between artistic value of one collection and the necessity of generating money?

One of the most exciting things about being in my position is that, as creative director, you have to create artistic moves; create a dream. It’s a great artistic process, but then you also have to

generate turnover; make the diversity of people in your company happy. It’s a lot of politics on its own, and I really like that. I think it’s nice to be in all kinds of platforms. I hate doing payments because I am really bad at accounting.

Talking about your architecture background – how does it affect your work, being in Florence?

Florence has a special place in my heart... saying this being from Bruges, Belgium. I grew up in the city centre surrounded by Gothic architecture all my life, and I have been obsessed by it since I was a child. So obviously, I think a historical approach in the brand, and also Florence, is coming from my childhood. The architecture, you can translate the construction in the garments; the pieces are built as constructed experiments. Some are a bit more exaggerated and some not. But every piece has a constructive twist. I will never do a pretty dress because I need a reason why the dress is there in the first place. Otherwise, I’m not happy with it.

There is a word used these days, that is genderless. How do you feel about that?

For certain brands I think it’s great. We don’t do that whatsoever. What we believe is that certain clothes, certain jackets, can go from super rough and super hardcore on a girl and super elegant and fragile on a man, or vice versa. It’s more about the person wearing it and owning it. Of course, many of our pieces go over ages and genders, but it’s really about who wears it.

Backstage at the Y/Project Fall/Winter 2019 show in Florence. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

How do you use social media to promote the brand?

I use social media more as a parameter to see what’s happening in the world; you can travel around the world from hippie LA to underground Berlin. It’s a nice tool to use. I’m really bad on social media personally. Of course, I’m on Instagram, but I’m not using it actively. For the brand, Instagram is a good thing. The brand is about diversity and playfulness and can go very extreme. For shows and campaigns we really focus on my creative freedom. On Instagram we promote different kinds of editorials to show the diversity of the garments. There is no strict way about it. It’s really about showing how everyone can play with it.

It has been said you applied to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp with just a few sketches. A school that has produced famed designers such as Dries Van Noten and Raf Simons and Haider Ackermann... what makes this Antwerp education so special?

The Antwerp School has a very specific way of working, focusing on self-study. They keep on telling you to do things again, but they don’t tell you why you have to do things again. They keep saying ‘it’s not good enough,’ but they don’t say why. It’s a very interesting way of working because you learn to question things and keep on questioning in your life. That’s something I do and most people that studied there do as well. By doing that for four years in school you develop a personality and you discover your taste, who you are, and what you will stand for.

Backstage at the Y/Project Fall/Winter 2019 show in Florence. Photos by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

Now that it is over, how do you feel about Pitti? About being here?

It’s an amazing platform. It’s amazing to be here and an honour to be here as well. When you look at all the designers that have been here before me, it’s been a bit of a dream come true, being part of this family now. I will probably miss it because it’s the biggest backstage I have ever had in my life. With frescos and all. It was an amazing experience, and it’s also very nice that they give you carte blanche. I could really go for it.