If there is one thing 2020 has taught us so far is that the show must go on. Even within the fashion industry, months of lockdown and uncertainty haven’t stopped designers and creatives alike to share their work and talent with the world. That's exactly why, on a sunny June afternoon, Glenn Martens gave me a personal preview of his latest SS21 collection for Y/PROJECT – from the comfort of our homes, of course.
Taken as a period of reflection, lockdown for Martens wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be. “For me it was really nice making a collection in this weird time, meaning that it was nice because it’s a different way of presenting a collection, it’s a whole different way of making a collection obviously as there’s no studio which makes patterns so all the designs were mainly a continuation, a story we already developed in the past so we knew the developments, how to do them so we didn’t have to do all those crazy tests and these tryouts – always like very simple, straightforward design twists,” he tells me.
With a team scattered throughout Europe and no access to their usual pattern-making or fabric construction, Martens had to focus on what the most important part of the collection would be. “We couldn’t really do all those developments so it was really about everyone brainstorming together, what kind of story did we like in the past, where do we feel we could have pushed it, how could we have corrected a different kind of piece,” he explains. “The thing was also for me, it was like okay do we make a collection just a bit easier to digest? Like no brainers with just a big print and that’s it? Which actually is everything Y/PROJECT doesn’t do, we never do that. We never do like a t-shirt with the logo.
“And then I was a bit like if I do that I am actually [going to] bore myself out and I will go against everything that I am standing for – I wanted to do fashion 15 years ago because I love experimentation and craftsmanship and pushing boundaries and now I suddenly have to start doing something more toned down and easy to digest, that’s really gonna be against everything I stand for, for Y/PROJECT. So the idea was to just keep on doing what we kept on doing, make it a bit more confined, like a bit more compact and just keep the whole joy and experimental factor and just document it as good as possible.”
And, although documenting it all took an entire week of shoots, Martens tells me he really enjoyed making all those visuals and how working in a different environment was much more relaxed and enabled him to thoroughly enjoy his team and the process behind it. “I mean, the moment the show is cancelled there’s a whole stress factor that disappears,” he laughs.
The final result? What started as a 20-looks lookbook, turned out to be a much more complex project. For a brand with such an eclectic reputation, it comes as no surprise that, lockdown or not, Martens has managed to create another melting pot of styles, products and looks for the brand. A familiar feeling of classic Y/PROJECT iconic pieces gets swept away with a new, uncertain sense of avant-garde.
A simple long-sleeve top paired with OTT geometric wide-leg trousers, boldly structured pieces share the stage with relaxed fits and ruffled non-structured blazers are mixed with misshapen and twisted printed tops. A fusion of shapes, fabrics and colours and impeccable attention to detail shows the versatility of well-constructed garments purposefully styled to grab one’s attention. This season, Martens surprised us once again by perfectly balancing old and new, low and high and expressing the brand’s ethos – as well as his creativity – through shapes and flamboyant styling.
“[This season] is really about eclecticism and the fun factor – for me fashion, at least the fashion that we’re doing, is about emotions. Something that I think disappears more and more in this industry, I think everything is way too much product-orientated and sales-orientated while for me, what I love about fashion is its emotions. They can be very nostalgic emotions or they can be very fun and explosive emotions. I think for us it’s really about this kind of quirky – it’s a bit of a never-ending drunk party at Christmas, you know, like a crazy drunk Christmas party,” Martens concludes.
And he is right, the Y/PROJECT never-ending drunk Christmas party SS21 collection embodies exactly the sort of quirky, over the top looks we didn’t know we needed.