Lay­ered com­plex­ity

Neue Luxury - - Front Page - By Sa­muel Wil­lett

The en­trance to the Song for the Mute ate­lier in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia, re­veals ex­posed brick walls ris­ing from the roughly pol­ished black con­crete floors. Bare wooden beams cross the soar­ing ware­house ceil­ing, while large in­dus­trial lights give the space a warm hue. Gar­ments line the perime­ters, light cap­tur­ing the hyp­no­tiz­ing tex­tures of wool, sun-dried cot­ton, al­paca and mo­hair, re­ward­ing cu­rios­ity and in­ter­ac­tion at every step. There is a sense of co­he­sion to the space; no de­tail has gone un­no­ticed, every el­e­ment speak­ing to the ethos that un­der­pins the la­bel. It’s clear the goal for Melvin Tanaya and Lyna Ty—the founders of Song for the Mute —is to cre­ate cloth­ing that en­cap­su­lates their ded­i­ca­tion and pas­sion for craft and tell a per­sonal story cu­rated over many years.

Tanaya and Ty launched Song for the Mute in 2010 af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing a need for di­rec­tional ar­ti­sanal cloth­ing within Aus­tralian fash­ion. Tanaya’s back­ground in visual com­mu­ni­ca­tion and busi­ness com­bined with Ty’s fash­ion ed­u­ca­tion from the Ac­cademia Ital­iana Di Moda in Italy cre­ated the ideal mi­lieu to share their ob­ses­sion with qual­ity and in­no­va­tion. “The clothes are unique, not only to any­thing I’ve seen in Aus­tralia, but quite frankly, any­thing I’ve seen in the world,” says Nick Wooster, a menswear author­ity with over twenty-five years ex­pe­ri­ence within the fash­ion in­dus­try.

Tanaya and Ty un­der­stood the con­cept of the Song for the Mute brand very early, and that they needed to seek and col­lab­o­rate with ar­ti­sans and spe­cial­ist gar­ment mak­ers to achieve their ex­per­i­men­tal method­ol­ogy. This ap­proach has in­formed and dic­tated the en­tire life cy­cle of their col­lec­tions, from sourc­ing, to cre­ation and fi­nal gar­ment con­struc­tion. Ty re­flects, “I would es­ti­mate that 70 per cent of the de­sign process is spent sourc­ing and de­vel­op­ing fab­ric—which can take up to two to three months.” This focus on cu­rated fab­ric choice and de­vel­op­ment is the es­sen­tial first step in the de­sign process. Dur­ing their an­nual trips to Ja­pan, the pair will spend days ex­plor­ing fab­ric mills, sam­pling and ex­am­in­ing the tex­ture, weight, touch, and drape of each swatch. “It’s that gut feel­ing,” Tanaya ex­plains. “We al­ways choose those spe­cial fab­rics that speak to us.” All of the crit­i­cal fab­ric char­ac­ter­is­tics act as a catalyst, which then shape the con­cept and story for each new col­lec­tion.

If ortho­dox meth­ods of ma­te­rial pro­duc­tion prove to be in­suf­fi­cient, the de­sign­ers are known to re­vive long for­got­ten tech­niques. One such ex­am­ple is the rein­tro­duc­tion of the nee­dle punch tech­nique, where two dif­fer­ent fi­bres are me­chan­i­cally weaved and in­ter­locked, seam­lessly fus­ing them to­gether. The process can only be achieved by a small num­ber of fab­ric mills in the world. “The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less,” says Tanaya. This unique process re­sults in an em­phatic visual out­come, dis­tinct in depth and tex­tu­ral qual­ity. If tra­di­tional meth­ods can­not be re­vived, the duo re­search ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies to pro­vide ad­di­tional el­e­ments to their cho­sen ma­te­ri­als. Dream Care is a process utilised to make wool wa­ter re­pel­lent by coat­ing each fi­bre thor­oughly be­fore the weav­ing process. Ty demon­strates these prop­er­ties in the studio, pointing out how wa­ter beads glide down the soft and lux­u­ri­ous wool. She goes on to com­ment that these new modes of ma­te­rial pro­duc­tion chal­lenge con­sumer as­sump­tions about nat­u­ral fi­bres.

“We have to think about how the fab­ric will best re­act to the de­sign idea, the con­struc­tion, and par­tic­u­larly the com­fort,” says Tanaya. By us­ing a live model to shape and mould each new piece, Song for the Mute en­sure that the ini­tial pat­tern con­struc­tion is di­rected by how these fab­rics adapt to the con­tours of the hu­man body, much like a sec­ond skin. From the place­ment of but­tons along the waist to de­ter­mine shape, to the an­gle and lo­ca­tion of pock­ets and seams that best re­act to the body’s move­ment, each de­ci­sion is re­peat­edly as­sessed un­til the duo reach a de­sired out­come. “It’s also ex­tremely rare that we de­sign some­thing with­out know­ing what fab­ric qual­i­ties we are work­ing with, Lyna draws her de­signs with the cloth al­ready in mind.”

This eye for de­tail ex­tends to their de­sign col­lab­o­ra­tions, with the most no­table be­ing es­tab­lished with Ja­panese jew­ellery de­signer No­ri­aki Sakamoto of IOLOM. Tanaya and Ty were in­tro­duced to Sakamoto through a mu­tual friend, Daisuke Nishida, the de­signer of cult Ja­panese la­bel DEVOA. Sakamoto’s work shares many of the de­sign prin­ci­ples dis­tinct in Song for the Mute. “The Ja­panese don’t want to com­pro­mise on any­thing when it comes to qual­ity and con­struc­tion, they view their prod­uct as an ex­ten­sion of who they are,” ex­plains Tanaya. Sakamoto hand­crafted each sil­ver hook in the shirt­ing and tai­lor­ing of the lat­est sea­son, pre­fer­ring to use the high­est qual­ity .950 per­cent sil­ver. These small touches add a prove­nance to each piece and bring a col­lec­tions nar­ra­tive to life.

“We started with a very spe­cific vi­sion, and ad­mit to some fail­ures and de­vi­a­tions along the way. With each sea­son these real­i­sa­tions have helped shape our un­der­stand­ing of what best fits the Song for the Mute story,” says Ty. The de­sign duo have shed the con­stant pres­sure to fol­low the sta­tus quo, quickly learn­ing that the best col­lec­tions are pro­duced when in­stinct is em­braced over trend. Whether it be the im­me­di­ately recog­nis­able pro­file sil­hou­ette of the co­coon jack­ets, the asym­met­ric fas­ten­ing de­tails on leg and footwear, or the raw hems that evolve over a gar­ments life­time, the de­signs are sub­ver­sive yet re­main ap­proach­able. “Peo­ple want qual­ity prod­ucts,” says Tanaya, “and we shouldn’t be afraid to fol­low that phi­los­o­phy.”

Song for the Mute re­wards in­qui­si­tion of, and an ob­ses­sion with, qual­ity and de­tail. Both Tanaya and Ty’s col­lab­o­ra­tions are on a tra­jec­tory that feels both con­fi­dent and in­spired. “Our in­spi­ra­tion and cre­ativ­ity is con­stantly evolv­ing, the aim is to open new ar­eas of ex­plo­ration at every step, so we’re push­ing our­selves both tech­ni­cally and cre­atively. With progress there is al­ways an el­e­ment of un­cer­tainty, but we wouldn’t have it any other way” re­flects Tanaya.

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