PARIS, France — Despite the influx of American talent on the Paris calendar, there is a certain hole left by the absence of Vetements (who’ve decamped to the haute couture schedule and a presentation format) that Paris label Y/Project has filled quite nicely. Thankfully though, it’s a case of square peg/round hole, as today its Belgian designer Glenn Martens’ closed the first full day of the Spring 2018 Paris shows with an undoubtedly singular voice. Whilst he occupies similar airspace to a handful of subversive newcomers, Martens has carved out an unexpected niche in neo-historical fashion, for clothes with an innate newness despite their foundation in quotidian garments and winks to the distant past.
Both realities were at play tonight under the clinical lighting of a Parisian social sciences college lobby, as Martens built on the heady blend of sports and ultra-feminine tropes that twist such unusual associations into his streetwear base. First off, he turned the waspy tropes of cardigans and polo-shirts on their head, as a cricket sweater’s v-neck was knitted seven times over to become a striped sweater dress, and skewed twin-set knits came knotted with diamante nipple brooches and a ruched drawstring hip.
Martens has referenced his Flemish heritage before through silhouette, yet today it appeared as a sandy Belgian linen fabric cut into arched thigh-split jeans, boxy denim jacket experiments, and his wobbly scrunched boots that spiral around the calf. There was plenty more of that squiggly, cumbersome footwear (the season marks their first full shoe line) all of which treaded the wrong side of glamour – something that Martens revels in with his stylist Ursina Gysi. Later he even tackled Belle Epoque themes through that self-same lens, draping all manner of tailoring and evening separates with filmy clouds of tulle, scribbles of pearls, and bunched-up floral pleating with utility toggles. The results were dynamic and elevated – an optimistic and humorous collection from a brand once fettered by the dark side of Paris fashion.