Like just about every other designer who has managed to create a collection for spring 2021, Glenn Martens of Y/Project had to quickly get used to a whole new way of doing things. Martens was holed up in his new apartment in the 18th arrondissement in Paris, which he had moved into just as COVID arrived in the city, trying to stay virtually connected to his team at the very moment that disconnection determined every aspect of his, and all of our lives. Still, on Zoom one morning to chat about the new collection, he was in good spirits, ebullient, even. “I had to adapt to a new system, and a new way of working,” Martens said. “I was thinking, What’s the core of the clothing I make? At the end of the day, it’s to make people happy. The biggest thing you can do now is to bring emotion, because people want what they wear to stand for something.”
You could say that that has been a constant ethos of his. Martens has always found joy in making fashion, and that attitude shines through in his work. It’s what makes his clothes—complex designs, often layered in their construction and laden with historical references—fundamentally so intriguing. That inventiveness of his comes laced with a generosity of spirit—teamwork is a big part of what he does, regardless if it’s in person, or not—and a healthy dash of much needed humor.
Next spring is no exception. Martens has consolidated much of what he has achieved this past seven years at Y/Project. To anyone who’s a fan of his playful denim, or his clever, interactive knits, there are the likes of bedazzled marbled gray or pristine white jeans, both with those saucy deep-V trompe l’oeil waistbands he loves, or sweaters that would be classic were it not for their askew collars which can be altered at their wearer’s will; this time around one of those might be paired with a new trouser shape he has developed which mimics a silk sarong. The latter might not exactly be for the faint of fashion heart, but they’re a gutsy (and cheeky) response to the moment we’re in, part of what he describes as the collection’s “less serious, less drama” new mood.
That said, there’s some pretty purposeful intent about much of what’s on offer here. It’s particularly evident in the collection’s real sense of complicity with the person who’s going to wear the clothes, and how they might actually choose to wear them. Just as he did with his men’s, Martens has made a ‘How To Wear’ video, showcasing the versatility of the pieces. That’s when things get really interesting. Those design flourishes aren’t just meant to be admired, but enhance your experience of the clothes. You get to decide how extreme, or conceptual, you want to go.
There are pant suits that can be transformed by being unbuttoned or unlayered. Polo dresses which, via the miracle of their drawstrings, can go from office (or WFH) to going out—or whatever will constitute that in the months to come; maybe you’ll just vamp it up at home. Meanwhile, a faux leather trench delivers a serious hit of glam, something echoed by the collection’s flamboyant mules or lace booties. Still, it’s an off-kilter kind of glam, one that’s hardly obvious or expected. And for that reason, one that’s perfect for the times we’re living through.