LONDON — Glenn Martens of Y/Project is teaming with Browns this fall to stage a window takeover of the retailer’s South Molton Street boutique here alongside an in-store pop-up and a capsule women’s wear collection.
The capsule line features four exclusive versions of brand signatures: an asymmetric bomber jacket, ruched jeans, a stretch velvet turtleneck dress and a blouson-sleeve sweatshirt. The installation is a collaboration with Paris design agency Creative Sweatshop.
Martens was appointed creative director of men’s wear label Y/Project in 2013, following the death of its founder, and reinvented the brand, introducing a women’s wear line in February. There is a 40 percent unisex crossover between the two collections. “The men’s wear was always very popular with women, so I thought it was important to have an overlap,” he said.
Known for his blend of traditional tailoring, overblown proportions and offbeat historical references, Martens was a runner-up in this year’s LMVH Prize. Celebrity influencers including Rihanna and Beyoncé are keen on the Belgian-born designer. Martens personalized one of his unisex pieces — a mustard-colored suit — for Rihanna’s Anti World Tour wardrobe at the behest of her stylist Mel Ottenburg, who has since commissioned another piece for an upcoming red carpet event.
Martens saw the concert in Paris. “It was so exciting to see my look on one of the biggest stars in the world,” he said. Beyoncé came by the studio on a recent sojourn in Paris, as well, and bought up half the collection for herself plus a bomber jacket for Jay Z.
“I was like, ‘OK, perfect,'” laughed Martens.
The designer grew up in Bruges, Belgium, where he said fashion was perceived as an interesting diversion as opposed to an actual career. With his mother a nurse and father a high-court judge, it is Martens’ paternal grandfather, an artist of stained glass, who worked on the windows of churches destroyed during WWII, to whom he attributes his creative side. Martens studied interior design in Ghent before attending Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where he won his place based on a portfolio comprising tables and chairs. Upon graduating, he moved to Paris to work for Jean Paul Gaultier.
The Y/Project aesthetic is about freedom and eclecticism, said Martens. Signature pieces include the deconstructed bomber jacket and eight-footlong denim pants that can be styled either folded back on themselves or with exaggerated ruching. “Very easy to wear, it’s a basic piece with a little wink,” he noted, pointing out that in addition to the Y logo on the belts, the entire crotch of the garment is fashioned in the letter’s shape.
For shows Martens works with stylist Ursina Gysi. “We have this quirky connection point as to what fits together; it can’t be too pretty and needs to be looking ‘a bit off’ before we’re happy,” he said. This can include overblown blouson sleeves and ruffled necks recalling Elizabethan portraiture, but done in a contemporary way using technical fabrics.
The next step for Y/Project will be footwear and an eyewear line, both collaborations with friends.