Originally founded as a partnership between French designer Yohan Serfaty and businessman Gilles Elalouf, Y/Project was once known as a conceptual design and original detailing menswear label. In 2013, when Serfaty passed away, Belgian designer Glenn Martens found himself as the creative director of the brand.
“It was an extremely emotional process as the original creative director, the founder of the brand, Yohan Serfaty (the Y of Y/project), passed away a few weeks prior. There’s simply no ideal way for taking over a brand in mourning. Everybody, both inside and outside the house, was grieving,” Martens explained. “Out of respect for Yohan and his legacy, I decided for a slow transitioning… Starting, with my first collection, directly from Yohan’s world to infuse little by little, over a lapse of 2 years, some more of my aesthetics. Y/Project as we know today took shape when we showed our very first womenswear FW2016.”
When Martens arrived at Y/Project, he found himself with a team of just five people. “The brand wasn’t economically healthy. We have always been independent. The only injection of money we ever enjoyed was when we won the ANDAM award back in 2017,” he added.
But, after settling a renewed identity for the brand in 2016, Martens’ strategy was to scream as loud as possible.
“That’s when we presented our denim chaps, our first cut-out pants… You need to make statements; you need to show a different approach to what’s already there in this quite saturated business. Today we are about 20 people, and our stockist counts more than 150 doors. My focus is always authenticity, craftsmanship and a straightforward concept… I wouldn’t be fulfilled by filling up the hype.”
After setting his own pace and transitioning into a wholly different position within the industry, the designer has managed to create a fascinating narrative for the brand. Since his appointment, he has established an emphasis on individuality and independence, by fusing the energy of the street with thought-provoking silhouettes and the new take on masculinity and femininity blends eccentric references with unisex looks that transcend versatility.
Unfortunately, recent events have made it tough for brands everywhere, not excluding Y/Project. “I feel these harsh times are also bringing awareness of how blessed we are. Fashion can be a bitch, but on the other hand, we’re doing the things we love! Of course, we suffered too. 25% of our customers cancelled their womenswear order. Luckily, AW20 men were our bestselling collections “ever” so we managed to stay flat. We did not enjoy growth for the first time in 5 years. But at the end of the day, I’m blessed that it hasn’t critically affected our business,” Martens added.
No extreme measures have been taken so far, the designer’s only wish is for everyone to stay safe and healthy. “I do think things are going to go back to normal,” he told us. “At the end, we’re just making clothes… It’s not that trivial.”
But will the pandemic affect the way people’s shop? “I do hope this awareness will bring a global change,” Martens continued. “We need to respect each other, take care of each other… Fix the world.”