Paris’s transcendent designer of the avant-garde finds inspiration on the street, and in nature’s wild, for his capsule collection with Canada Goose.
“We wanted to rough it up a little bit,” laughs Glenn Martens conspiratorially while on the phone from his home in Paris, France. The creative director of Y/Project is chatting about the design ethos behind his recent collaboration with Canada Goose.
Indeed, his fall/winter 2020 capsule collection, which re-imagines five of our signature cold weather pieces, plus a classic Canadian beanie, takes artistic liberty in deconstructed silhouettes, proportions, and asymmetrical detailing that speaks (literal) volumes towards Martens deeply conceptual and inventive interpretations. Undermining traditional construction, extended hems and layered hoods are proportionally exaggerated, while dangling straps, hidden snaps, and internal buckles allow the wearer to wrap and “warp” the fit, depending on their individual preference and style. “While it’s an in-your-face collection full of emotion and feeling, its interpretation of how it can be worn is entirely up to the person who wears it,” he says.
Since Martens’ appointment to the fashion house in 2013, Y/Project has spearheaded a metamorphic period of growth and change in streetwear in Paris. His runway show is considered one of the most coveted invites during Fashion Week. This remarkable success is likely due to Marten’s unwavering pursuit of doing what he wants based on how he feels. For him, developing a strong brand identity starts with laddering up to his personal values: His love of culture, history, hitting the clubs, and even camping in the wild backwoods of France all inform the cool curb appeal that is built into his designs. Combine that with our iconic craftsmanship, and the result is a revitalized collection that pushes conventional boundaries and encourages bold, unorthodox styling.
For more on the evolution of his label, the highly-anticipated collaboration, and how Martens forecasts the future of fashion in an industry rocked by a global pandemic, continue reading the conversation below.
How has Y/Project evolved under your creative direction?
“It was complicated to take over initially, after the passing of founder Yohan Serafty, because I started months after his loss, and so there is truly no elegant or ideal way to take over a brand (or a team) in mourning. The brand was really built around his enigmatic persona, and he had a very dark, sophisticated, and strong aesthetic based on his personality and creative spirit. Out of respect, I wanted to continue his legacy while at the same time slowly stepping away from the designer himself and making Y/Project into more of a fashion house. There was no way I could continue to be a designer-first brand when Yohan was no longer there. I worked on building this identity for three years: Season after season, I added more of me into the collections and less of him.”
How did you bring more of your perspective into the fold?
“Little-by-little, I drew a deeper connection to my reality, which, basically, is the streets. I’m the guy who’s going to the clubs, riding my bike through the city, and pitching a tent for camping in the forest, so I tried to project this world into Y/Project to make the overall feel more street, more global, more daywear. Yohan went to the opera, and he loved classical music. While I can appreciate both, they’re not for me. The more I was leaving his world, I was getting closer to mine, and interestingly, that shift helped us get picked up by media and the consumer on a larger scale. I’m not sure if this is attributed to the fact that they could sense the collections were becoming more representative of the ‘true me’ and felt more authentic? It was a much more honest approach to the collections: A more ‘true me’ and less ‘true him.’ Maybe that helped.”
Your vision is very conceptual and inventive – you love to play with proportions and silhouettes. Where does that desire for design come from?
“I’m very much about eclecticism. I’m trying to do everything in the most intense way I can, both professionally and personally. I always go for the more extreme experiences. For example, when I go camping, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s full-on, outdoors camping. I don’t shower for a week; I completely immerse myself in the wild experience. To me, that challenge gets me going creatively.
I’m also history-obsessed. I recently spent four days in Rome, touring every single church, museum, gallery, or site. I was exhausted, but I will always travel to extremes, too. This kind of extreme thoughtfulness translates into my collections. I want them to be very in your face, celebratory, and opulent. Silhouettes are so exaggerated, which reflects the extreme way I choose to see life. I want the feeling to be moody and rich, not unlike a profound, transformative life experience.”
Has your former life as an architect informed your work as a designer?
“Construction is behind every artistic expression I have. I love to express construction in myriad ways. I will twist and wrap designs or play with different ornamental techniques that allow me to create different versions of style all within the same collection. It’s that push-pull and level of contrast that intrigues me.
Versatility is equally as important: Many of our garments are designed to be adapted and changeable towards a certain mood or feeling of that day. We all have our days where we feel more emotionally explosive and the others when we desire to be more muted. Sometimes, garments have that power to reflect and translate those moods, and I love that.”
How did you decide you would leave your particular stamp on Canada Goose’s iconic outerwear styles?
“First, I looked at what this jacket can do and why people need it. We knew we had to celebrate its technical craftsmanship. It’s a type of jacket we don’t do in our collections, so that’s the reason why I did this collaboration and was so excited about it. It’s a heritage piece in so many ways, mainly due to its immense technical development at the core of its design. We wouldn’t be able to develop this ourselves – it’s the core of what Canada Goose does so well.
While the genesis of these jackets’ original design is for the most difficult circumstances (the cold and the climate), our job was to respect that need while also keeping it relevant, technically usable, and representative of our brand. We wanted the look to express an explosion of feelings and emotions while tying to its function. We added certain Y/Project product design twists to enhance the look; the volume is explosive, and we were always keeping in mind that there’s a secondary way of wearing them. The jacket “explodes” in different directions and is also suitable for harsh weather. They’re a lot of fun to wear.”
So, the jackets are chameleon?
“Absolutely. Part of our brand philosophy is that you can go into the office with your jacket and survive your day-to-day, but come the evening, if you are heading to a party, you can twist it around and wear it differently. Suddenly your fashion game is amped up.
It has a strong chameleon quality – on the catwalk, we certainly showcase the most extreme ways to wear jackets, but they can be toned down on the street. Merging into the world of Canada Goose is fascinating: Respect the icon while still making it yours. To me, there is no point in collaborating if there’s no challenge behind it. I need to have something that nourishes me creatively. It was an enjoyable project to have a personal take on.
What is the future forecast of fashion for an industry that has been rocked by a global pandemic?
“I think a lot of people want to change the system moving forward. The method as it is now is not following the wishes of independent people, but more the desires of capitalism. I suppose, as a designer, you could play it safe and make the t-shirts and jerseys with a bit of branding and sell a number of that online, make carry-overs from the last season, or make a more commercially-viable and toned down collection. But for me? No way.
Today, we’re all working on how we manage to survive and what fits best to our way of living, and while there will likely be a sadder moment in fashion to come, I am optimistic about the future of fashion. Fashion has been invented to bring joy and happiness to people. What is going to make you happy? I will continue to forward-think on how I design and push clothes ahead to inspire those emotions.
I miss Fashion Week. Many of us designers hated it because it was too much at one point, but we also loved it because we made connections; we met people, and it was a fantastic sense of community within the industry. I do hope we can show again, but maybe we don’t do four shows a year. It’s not needed. Perhaps it’s more interesting to keep our collections longer on the sales floor, and we produce less.
Versatility will also be key this coming season. It will be about clothes that we can wear in different ways, that have a longer life. Different personalities can be injected into one garment. We don’t need 20 jackets — we need one or two that are of excellent quality. For the consumer, they will consume less, but better.
I think we will become more reflective of ourselves and (hopefully) recognize that we will have a lot to celebrate once we come out of this while also making a more significant commitment to focusing on taking care of ourselves and finding pleasure. Fashion can offer that, and I really hope we celebrate the dream and the beauty of it again.”
Canada Goose x Y/Project launches October 23rd, 2020.