Reduce, reuse, recycle: the unofficial mantra of the spring 2021 season guided the Y/Project men’s collection, designed under lockdown.
Glenn Martens, creative director of the Paris-based brand, only produced a third of the usual number of looks. With the pattern-making studio closed, he combed through the archives and gave existing designs a second life, making them using deadstock fabrics.
The tight focus made for a vibrant collection that homed in on the house’s trademark twisted constructions, which Martens and his team styled on models in a “how-to” video released to coincide with the brand’s digital sales showroom, which kicks off on Monday.
In it they demonstrate how to release a raised collar, peel open a trompe-l’oeil double waistband, or extend a ruched jersey jacket into a tube dress (the men’s looks were mixed in with the women’s resort 2021 collection.)
“When I was at the Antwerp Academy, it was really about the dream and beauty, and the creativity and the expression. Y/Project is definitely a brand which has kept on pushing that every season,” Martens said.
“We never did the basic branding T-shirt, or whatever. I really believe that every single piece that I develop, out of respect for my own creativity and my team, it has to have a proper twist and a proper design element,” he added. “We’re doing luxury, we’re not doing survival clothes.”
Among his favorites were the double panel pants that swamped the legs in sculptural folds. He paired them with a double sweater with snap buttons that could be detached and reattached in a variety of ways.
“There’s never a good answer of how to wear Y/Project: we give you an option, and then you have to own it,” Martens said.
Colorful rose and leopard prints gave both tailored and tracksuits a sly, hedonistic feel. “There’s a little bit of a gypsy wedding vibe, a very eclectic situation,” Martens said. Those playful elements reflected the designer’s relatively upbeat mood, at a time when many smaller brands are struggling to stay afloat.
“We were very lucky that we were quite spared at this stage from the coronavirus,” he said, reporting that the last men’s collection sold well, meaning that despite the cancellation of some women’s orders, sales for fall were broadly stable versus the year before.
Despite this, Y/Project plans to skip the runway in September and focus instead on the launch of its e-commerce site. “We all need to take our time to digest what happened. Some people are still in a very critical situation,” Martens explained.
“It’s a time for reflection. Most of us managed to think about what is really essential and of course, making smaller collections, more concrete collections, having a new fundament of the brand — these are all moments which are a result of better understanding what happened.”
Case in point: the brand’s new, 100 percent sustainable eco-friendly line dubbed Evergreen, consisting of 12 signature designs from previous seasons. They include a selection of airwashed denim, with cult pieces like his multi-cuff jeans and the infamous “janties” — a style of ultra-high rise short.
The range will be produced entirely within the European Union with a mix of certified organic and recycled fabrics, with a percentage of proceeds going to a green charity. “The idea is that they will sold again every season, so they will never go on markdown,” Martens explained. Sounds like these clothes are made for survival after all.