Antwerp-trained designer Glenn Martens stood out among his peers thanks to his technical prowess and the pure lines of his women’s clothes, thanks to their seductive alchemy between femininity and austerity. Those enamored with his aesthetic were disappointed when Martens shuttered his line late last year, in the run-up to his arrival at Y/Project, where he had been the first assistant to Yohan Serfaty, independent designer of the brand who recently passed away in 2013, four years ago.
Easing himself into his new position, Martens reprised some of Serfaty’s most beautiful signatures while introducing his own hand. Sharp tailoring and excellent construction brought out the luxury of highly worked fabrics. There is here such a deliberate will to reconcile the slick Serfaty era with a new level of construction introduced by Martens, a former architecture student. Taking up the mantle, the incoming designer is also raising the bar.
Lesser designers could have floundered when trying to build a leather insert into a raw shawl collar, would not have truly grasped the construction required to deliver the right amount of ruche to outline the masculinity of a leather biker jacket. But Martens pulls it off for utilitarian trousers cut from denim and butter soft leathers, outdoorsy jackets tailored to sharpness, a plethora of cunning details. The signatures of Y/Project are clearly brought to light, and reinvented.
In many ways, Martens’ work for Fall 2014 shows a reverence to his predecessor and mentor. Continuing the Y/Project’s rough luxury aesthetic was par for the course, but with a polished overtone, as smoothed over by fond remembrance.
This inaugural collection was also the occasion to introduce the Y/Project womenswear, which is expected to be expanded further in time for the March shows. Androgynous but unambiguous, this woman is very much a striking seductress, expressed in a wardrobe that suggests, never flaunts. Cleverly placed openings flashed just the right amount of leg as the model stalks down the rough runway, her fluid trousers moving beautifully around her legs. Despite its inherent interest, it couldn’t compete with the obsessively precise delivery of its male counterpart.
Expectations and emotions ran high before the show and if what walked today is any indication of things to come, Serfaty has left his house in the right hands.