Glenn Martens on balancing two roles and his views on today's young designers
It's an intense 2022 that is coming to an end for Glenn Martens. Martens has been the creative director of Y/Project since 2014, one of the most popular labels of Paris Fashion Week, as well as Diesel since 2021, which he successfully put back on the fashion scene. This past year the talented and inventive Belgian designer also realized a haute couture collection for the house of Jean Paul Gaultier, acclaimed on the Parisian catwalks last January. And last but not least, he chaired the jury of the Hyères Festival's fashion category, which was held from October 13 to 16. An opportunity for FashionNetwork.com to take stock of his many activities and projects.
FashionNetwork.com: How do you balance your multiple hats?
Glenn Martens: Obviously, this new role at Diesel has been a big change. I work Monday through Wednesday at the Italian brand in Breganze, Veneto. I arrive at the studio at 8am and leave at 10pm. Everything is very well organized, to the millimeter, my movements, my appointments, etc. I don't have to worry about that side of my job. That being said, it is necessary. On Thursdays and Fridays, I'm back in Paris and devote myself to Y/Project.
FNW: But how do you manage to carry out these two roles at the same time?
GM: They are two totally different worlds, both in terms of creativity and the audience I am addressing. I love selling denim and t-shirts at Diesel, and thinking more conceptually at Y/Project. The secret is teamwork. That's the most important thing. I don't mix teams, so I don't get confused, because I'm doing two different types of work at each. Plus, I take a lot of notes on the train!
FNW: How do you manage your two teams?
GM: At Diesel, it's like an orchestra. I have more of a leadership role. At Y/Project, I have a team of 25 people who know me very well. We are very close. I am very lucky. In fact, it's like a family. We've always worked as a clan. In fact, they have all come to Hyères and we will spend the evening together. This year, I made nine collections. Of course, I could not design all the silhouettes. My collaborators had to take on more responsibility.
FNW: Denim is still a common denominator between the two brands?
GM: It's true that with Y/Project, we've always done denim. It's a very easy fabric to work with for construction. You can give it a shape. I love pattern making and construction and this fabric lends itself well to that. But my approach is different with each brand.
FNW: In what way?
GM: At Diesel, I'm more about the material. It's still 2D. I laminate, I embroider, I work on special treatments. There are lots of ways to use denim. I spend a lot of time researching the textile. I push the creation. I take Diesel on a journey. Afterwards, the product is industrialized. They have big teams. When I arrived, Renzo Rosso (e.n, president and founder of the OTB group, which owns Diesel) told me that his company was the university of denim. It's true, they have an incredible know-how.
"Y/Project will open its very first corner in November"
FNW: How is Y/Project doing?
GM: It's doing really well. We had incredible momentum during the Covid and confinements, where we grew quite intensely. While most brands focused on simple products, we kept pushing on the creativity. People took the time to discover us. It's a brand that takes time to understand. Right now, we are developing a lot of accessories.
FNW: Are you going to open boutiques?
GM: We are now distributed by 150 multi-brand boutiques around the world. The idea is to start with corners. Y/Project will open its very first corner in November in South Korea, in Seoul.
FNW: What struck you most about the young finalists of the fashion competition at the Hyères Festival?
GM: The young designers all talk about sustainability. It is impressive. Their commitment is extraordinary. It is part of their language. They do it naturally. Which I wasn't doing when I was 20. They do beautiful things, but they also really think about the planet and the future.
FNW: Have you adopted a sustainable approach yourself?
GM: The first thing when I came to Diesel was to review the supply chain. Now 40% of the collection is made up of denim pieces and has been redesigned to minimize its impact on the planet with organic and recycled fibers, but also in terms of reducing water and chemical use. With Y/Project, we launched Evergreen in 2020, an eco-responsible line that represents 20% of our collection. But we can't change everything at once. We are trying to incorporate more and more sustainable elements as we go along.
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