The latest campaign from Parisian trailblazers Y/Project is here, and, as usual, it’s a full-blown family affair (cue track by Mary J. Blige). This season, creative director Glenn Martens and his entire atelier team piled into cars and drove to the outskirts of the French capital to shoot the label’s dynamic SS18 collection.
Martens has long shunned the idea of glossy, over-produced campaigns and instead focuses on the diverse people and personalities that make up the Y/Project family – “Since my arrival, it’s all been about celebrating individuality,” he says. “I see a lot of brands pushing this ‘army-effect’ – once you wear the brand, you become the brand. You hide behind their logo. I definitely respect the approach, but for us, we want to do the opposite,” he finishes. It certainly helps that, as well as being full of personality, his team are really, really ridiculously good looking.
The collection itself offers up pale jacquard suits in louche, boxy silhouettes, 90s-esque sportswear and beaded mesh bodysuits paired with barely-there ruched chiffon and wrap-around leather boots. The footwear is a particular stand-out as Martens becomes increasingly known for his subversive styles – his AW18 thigh-high Uggs are still fresh in our minds, and we’re guessing they might be in yours, too.
Shot and styled by long-term collaborators Arnaud Lajeunie and Ursina Gysi, the campaign features members of the team lounging in the restaurant where the campaign was shot, gathering together for a family photo and, in one model’s case, riding a horse. When asked how that came about, Martens says “that was Arnaud’s idea. I think he just loves horses and wanted to find an excuse to go into the countryside and do some horse whispering.”
We caught up with Martens to discuss the inspiration behind the brand’s SS18 collection, its ethos of celebrating individuals, and the watertight creative bond he, Lajeunie and Gysi share.
What was the starting point for the collection, how did it evolve from AW17?
Glenn Martens: The starting point of all collections is construction. I guess it’s a leftover of my architecture studies. We develop concepts and twists which we project onto different product groups. Once we fall in love with some technique, we start giving form and colour to the globality of the collection. One of our biggest SS18 stories is the merging of different pieces into one. You don’t really know where one piece starts and where the other one ends. Some of our pieces therefore have up to five different ways they can be worn. It's fun! I still discover new ways of wearing certain designs shown last June.
What was the inspiration behind it?
Glenn Martens: We take any reference we like regardless of era or subculture. It is a very emotional process. There’s no rule, it just happens, we do what we want and try to find some balance in between the extremes. Our collection plan therefore flirts with streetwear, sportswear, couture, tailoring. It’s a kind of celebration of this huge melting pot we’re living in. Paris is a never-ending source of inspiration, too. There’s all the great history, but it’s also a metropole embracing many different cultures. We want to talk to all kinds of different people from many different backgrounds.
Tell us a bit about the shoot, what was the process and what did you want to portray?
Glenn Martens: Each photograph is an individual story, focusing on an individual personality. The campaign concept was developed hand-in-hand with my photographer Arnaud Lajeunie and stylist Ursina Gysi. The three of us have an equal voice in the artistic development of each visual. Production is of course very tricky as we often shoot on location. It really takes one full day for each single image. We all have tight schedules so it’s impossible to always have all three of us present on the set. But then again, we work so closely together that we have blind trust in each other. I can easily be absent on a shoot in full confidence that the two of them will make an amazing visual that perfectly reflects the identity of the brand. I’m very blessed to have found them.
“My full team, including all our interns are in that group picture, and I was especially excited to see it. I’m extremely proud of all we’ve managed together in such short amount of time” – Glenn Martens
Tell us a little about some of the people featured in the campaign…
Glenn Martens: Each one is part of the history of the brand. Redouane for example is a boy Ursina found when she was street-casting in Les Halles (a shopping mall in Paris) He’s been in our last three shows and campaigns and by now is a part of the family. My full team, including all our interns are in that group picture, and I was especially excited to see it. I’m extremely proud of all we’ve managed together in such short amount of time. The brand today is about maturing and fine-tuning. I don’t believe one sole person can do that. It’s a team effort, which includes equal feedback; from the commercial team, the production team, and the creative team. It was very important to me to have this image in our series.
Why is the focus on individuals such an important part of Y/Project campaigns?
Glenn Martens: Since my arrival, Y/Project has been all about celebrating individuality. A lot of the clothes we propose are conceived to be totally versatile. The idea is that they have to grow on your personality, we invite our customer to make a choice, you need to own the piece. “How do I feel today? How do I want to wear this garment?” - the different answers can often be found in one single item. I think this freedom, this fun factor, is what triggers people.