SYDNEY, Australia — This month, the BoF Spotlight turns to Song for the Mute, an Australian menswear label founded by graphic artist Melvin Tanaya and Accademia Italiana Di Moda-trained designer Lyna Ty, whose sleek, modern clothes and unconventional approach to traditional fabrics made them the first ever menswear brand to win the prestigious Designer Award earlier this year at the L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival, an accolade previously awarded to Australian fashion industry favourite Dion Lee.
“It’s about modern proportions, exhaustive attention to detail and, above all, a continuous re-interpretation of traditional fabrics through pure construction and new shapes that heighten the natural qualities of the fabric,” said Ty, the brand’s creative director, on the label’s aesthetic. “But we wouldn’t be able to do all this amazing development with fabrics if it weren’t for AWI,” added Tanaya, referring to an important partnership the duo has established with Australian Wool Innovation Limited, a non-profit organization owned by over 29,000 Australian woolgrowers that invests in research, development, innovation and marketing along the global supply chain for Australian wool.
As well as fabric, Song for the Mute are constantly inspired by nature, something the designers drew upon when selecting a shell as the central element in a custom BoF logo they created for this month’s Spotlight. The white stroke that cuts across the image references the label’s logo, a graphical representation of a lifeline.
But alongside the pull of creative inspiration, Song for the Mute’s current vision is rooted in a business opportunity that was spotted by Tanaya while working at Sydney menswear store Harrolds, where he observed up close that the once conservative tastes of Australian men were rapidly evolving.
“The opportunity to be a part of the Harrolds team has given me the chance to examine this market first hand,” he said. “Seeing Harrolds’ gutsy and directional buys and seeing these pieces fly out the door confirmed our belief that there was a real gap within the Australian market for more modern menswear.”
This observation appears to have been right on, as the line has been gaining traction and is now stocked by a number of Australian retailers including Harrolds, Fallow, Dirtbox and Dilettante, as well as INK in Hong Kong, Ayin in Osaka, Entrance in Romania and online retailers For-Tomorrow.
But launching a fashion label in Australia — a country that is seasonally opposite to the world’s largest markets in the Northern Hemisphere — has not been without its challenges. “The major disadvantage of being in opposite seasons with the rest of the world would be time,” said Tanaya. “Our turnaround times for bulk production versus creating new collections are much closer together and this can be really challenging to control,” he continued. However, being based in Australia does have an upside, allowing the designers to perform “test runs” on collections in their home market before they are presented to the Northern Hemisphere a few months later.
While they have no immediate plans to launch womenswear, Song for the Mute have recently expanded into accessories. “We have done a backpack in AW11 which was received quite well,” said Ty. “We have also collaborated with the Melbourne-based jewelry label Henson creating our first capsule range of jewelry for Spring-Summer 2012 and are currently in talks with an amazing shoemaker to discuss the possibility of doing our own footwear line early next year.”
As they continue to expand their business, it is with great pleasure that we shine this month’s BoF Spotlight on Song for the Mute.
The Spotlight is BoF’s showcase for emerging talent who employ creativity and business acumen to make their mark in the fashion business. This month’s Spotlight was written by freelance fashion writer Corbin Chamberlin.