Founded in 2010 by Lyna Ty and Melvin Tanaya, Song For The Mute is not run by your usual run-of-the-mill designers. The former is a Accademia Italiana Di Moda-trained designer while the latter specialised in graphic designing and business. While it may have started off as a niche menswear collection, Song For The Mute now also includes womenswear in its repertoire. Nine years in, this Australian export is now stocked in a myriad of top retailers including Dover Street Market Singapore, Selfridges in London, Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and China, as well as Leclaireur in Paris, to name a few.
PrestigeOnline talked with the creative duo on what inspires them and what’s next for their label.
For those not familiar with the label, can you tell us how did the name Song for the Mute come about?
Melvin: When we started the label, we had quite strong opposition from within our immediate circle. There was strong pressure to conform and take the safe path — a 9-to-5 job, mortgage, all the typical expectations. We both knew that starting the label was the right thing, and we have always pushed each other to prove their initial doubts wrong.
Lyna: We know we’re not alone and the name comes from giving a voice to the voiceless, people that feel these outside pressures and push through them with belief in their vision.
Song for the Mute started off as a menswear label in 2010 before making the leap to include womenswear in 2015. Can you tell us what inspired the inclusion of womenswear?
Melvin: We started to feel confident in the direction of where our menswear is going, and we had buyers and press asking after how our ideas would translate into womenswear. Each change and progression we’ve made as a brand has been very organic, and the evolution into womenswear was no exception — it just felt ‘right’ in that period of time.
How do you think Song For The Mute has evolved since its inception?
Lyna: As Melvin mentioned, organic is the best way to describe it. Even our list of collaborators and special projects, they all started in a natural way; through chance meetings, encounters, friends of friends. Any kind of force creates resistance, so working in a very relaxed nature helps our ideas grow and develop in new and interesting ways.
How did the both of you get started in fashion?
Melvin: Lyna studied her masters at Accademia Italiana Di Moda in Florence, while my background is in Graphic Design and Business. We had a strong friendship growing up and attending the same school, so when I had the initial idea to start a label it made sense to discuss the idea with Lyna. Song for the Mute is my first foray into the fashion industry. Lyna grew up around fashion as both of her parents were in the wholesale business and ran a factory in Paris.
Which living person (man and woman) do you think best embody the Song for the Mute spirit?
Lyna: My inspiration and vision is ever evolving, never one the same. We see each collection as chapters — a long-form story, as a snapshot of where we are both at in the current time and place. Like this, the spirit of our muses can evolve and change with us.
Can you tell us your vision for Song for the Mute in the future?
Melvin: To continue to build the chapters of our story, with experimental process and beautiful fabrics.
What’s a typical day like for the both of you in the studio?
Melvin: It’s not uncommon to be pulled in many different directions in one day, so it’s important to stay focused on the most important task at hand. If I’m not working closely with Lyna to help develop the narrative and direction of each collection, it’s overseeing staff and the execution of all brand projects.
Lyna: It’s ever changing for me, too, depending on the time of the year. From sketching new shapes, selecting fabric swatches, building colour palettes, research, concept and character development, each part is so important to the overall process.
What is the division of labour like between Melvin and Lyna?
Melvin: While we spend a lot of time collaborating and discussing ideas around each collection, our actual roles are very separate. I’m focused more on the business and development side, while Lyna is more in control of the creative direction and new shapes within the collection.
Song for the Mute has done many collaborations. What has been the most memorable one?
Lyna: They are all so unique, and the friendships we build with the team and/or person behind each makes it really hard to choose just one. Our SFTM x Nothing collaboration, now in its second volume, is special because it gives us a more carefree platform to express our ideas.
Melvin: For our most recent 19.2 Hunter (FW19) collaboration , we had the pleasure of working together with lifestyle brand New Era. It was a real honour for us to have this opportunity with such an established brand (started back in 1920). To see inside the process and production of a company of this size was such a valuable experience for us as a brand moving forward.
Who do you hope to work with most next?
Melvin: We very rarely plan a specific partner to collaborate or work with. Like we mentioned previously, it’s more about building an organic connection. We do have a number of really exciting things planned in the music space in the future, but it’s just a little too early to release any information on these just yet.
Can you tell us more about the Spring/Summer 2019 collection? What inspired this collection?
Lyna: 19.1 Still Life is about the relationship between two strong individuals. It’s character development and story-telling in its purest form. An exploration of each individual and the dynamic between them, the context they find themselves in and their inner monologue. Exploring the sensory elements that make up their physical being.
What are some personal highlights from the new collection?
Lyna: Collaborating with our close friends from Lepaar on a very unique product and being able to shoot our campaign and lookbook at their house in Kangaroo Valley (two hours away from Sydney).
Where do you get your inspiration from? Do both of you ever run out of ideas?
Lyna: I see everything as a collection of experiences to be used as inspiration. The people I meet, different cultures, being in nature and exploring the different Australian landscapes and locations. I’ve often found inspiration in past a mistakes or accidents. I try my best to stay aware of my surroundings — to be open to possibilities or new perspectives.
In your opinion, does street fashion influence high fashion, or is it the other way around?
Melvin: Sometimes it can be an endless cycle. However, customers are very educated nowadays and generally have higher expectations compared to when we first started the brand in 2010. With the overall surge in global fashion and the increased competition from other (both domestic and international) labels, customers have in turn become more sensitive to quality and fabric. They’re less forgiving which means there is less room for error.
If you could dress one person in this world, who would it be and why?
Lyna: We make products for the everyday people. We want to offer garments in good, comfortable fabrics in easy shapes. Standing out without being loud.
Three wardrobes essentials for men?
Melvin: A simple white tee in good fabric. A pair of black tailored pants and comfortable low cut sneakers.
Any style pet peeves?
Melvin: Personal expression for us is the most important aspect of style, as long as each person is comfortable and feels at-home in their garments, nothing can go wrong.