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At the helm of the avant-garde Parisian label Y/Project, creative director of the Italian lifestyle brand Diesel, and second guest designer for Jean Paul Gaultier's Couture is Glenn Martens. At only 39, he stands on the Olympus of the most renowned designers in the fashion system. When he enters the room, he looks much younger than he is. His scruffy look, boots, and black checked shirt are reminiscent of young Berliners out for a Sunday stroll, yet he is jovial. As he talks about his work in a mixture of passion and pragmatism, you can see the flair behind his designs, which always balance sublimely between deconstruction and perfectionism, intrigue and explicit sensuality. «I’m not interested in beauty - he says, gesturing - that's not my goal, it's always the process that leads to the product and the surprise effect. I like to surprise people and surprise myself first with something unexpected.» A bomber jacket tied at the waist paired with zigzag jeans by Y/Project, a skirt/belt by Diesel, a ruched emerald green dress by JPG Couture: unexpected is indeed an appropriate term. But to better understand this approach, we need to take a step back in time, to his childhood in Bruges, in the country that produced designers such as Raf Simons, Martin Margiela, and Dries van Noten: «Belgium is not a beautiful country like Italy, where even the smallest towns seem to have come out of a fairy tale. Belgium flourished during the Industrial Revolution, so it is grey, hostile, and brutalist. That's why Belgians tend to look for beauty in unexpected places. Deconstructing what we see and rebuilding it elsewhere to find beauty in something less obvious: that's my approach to fashion.»

At Diesel, conceptuality revolves primarily around fabric and the treatments to which that fabric is subjected, a game of transformations that materialises in denim, the material that defined the brand's success in the early 2000s, so much so that a teenage Glenn set aside his first paycheck to buy a pair of the brand's jeans. Who knows, maybe it was a sign of fate. «First of all, denim is a very easy fabric to wear because the structure is very strong and stable, but at the same time it is malleable. It is suitable for every occasion, depending on how you combine it. With high heels you can go to a cocktail party, with mountain shoes you can go hiking, with trainers you can go to a rave. That's why I love it, because of its versatility.»  There is indeed a certain democratic verve in Martens' work for the brand, both in the design of the garments and in the urgency to convey a global message that ranges from inclusivity to sustainability. «Of course we are not Mother Theresa - he says with a laugh - but in terms of responsibility, it's inevitably not what it was in the 1990s. Especially when it comes to a lifestyle brand like Diesel. It's a responsibility that comes from knowing you are talking to a lot of people.» At one point, the discourse falls on the year 2000, on the way Diesel's creations helped rehabilitate an aesthetic era that we thought was long dead and buried yet is now conquering the streets and catwalks alike. Obviously, this was not intentional: «I do not know what's up with this Y2K thing. All I can say is that it came naturally to me because Diesel is rooted in that era. Any intelligent creative director who comes to a brand should make an effort to understand why that brand became famous. With Diesel, it was more of a lifestyle, a 'no bullshit' attitude that I try to represent through the brand, very direct, fun and a bit cheeky, in the era of MTV and entertainment.» 

The method is the signature, adhering to very different realities, but somehow traceable to Martens through a certain notion of design: «You have to be true to yourself, that's the most important thing I learned: Integrity. At the Antwerp Academy I was taught to make things again, I was always told to re-do every school project. They never explained what was wrong or why I should do it again. However, that allowed me to find my language, to really connect with myself.» If Diesel was about bringing a historic lifestyle brand back into the spotlight by interacting with a wider audience, if Jean Paul Gaultier was about «a big dream to dress goddesses in clothes that have little to do with reality", Y/Project, the brand founded by Yohan Serfaty, of which Martens has been creative director since 2013, is about being avant-garde. «But even for Y/Project, my ambition as a designer is not to please myself. My creative ego is not always connected to the feeling of success. It's not about what I want. Sometimes I am very happy when I see people wearing a simple, white, organic Diesel shirt with a logo, a logo that I did not design but reinterpreted. I think it's already very nice to know that people on the street are wearing a sustainable t-shirt and that we sell millions of them, just as it makes me happy to see Rihanna wearing a total look of my craziest designs, it's just two different feelings



Photographer: Anna Adamo

Photographer Assistant: Veronica Brunoni

Interview: Maria Stanchieri

MUA: Cristina Bonetti

Social Media Coordinator: Ilaria Grande

Editorial Coordinator: Elisa AmbrosettiEdoardo Lasala