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Ebb & Flow: an interview with the Israeli designers behind Muslin Brothers

The avant-garde design duo behind Muslin Brothers pinpoint their process, casting models and accidentally-bleached trousers

© Dana Elkis

Muslin Brothers, the edgy and raw effort of design talents Tamar Levit and Yaen Levi, came together in 2011 to produce cultural commentary through fashion and performance art, and have been going ever since, presenting two collections annually. With a successful collaboration with Grey Goose in the bag and an upcoming partnership with a Chinese retailer that’s still under wraps, the young brand is going places, bringing Tel Aviv’s influence to new horizons. We had a chat with the design duo about their latest collection.

Why did you name your brand Muslin Brothers?

Muslin Brothers is a play on words.  Muslin is a textile originally from Mosul, Iraq. Because of its simple and light weave it has two uses – in its luxurious version for men’s button up shirts and in the more quotidian as material to ‘draft’ garments.  We see ourselves as the brotherhood of the first prototype garment.  From the start we knew that we preferred to use an alias than our names for the brand. Muslin encapsulates an essence far bigger and more relatable than simply ‘Tamar and Yaen’.  

Likewise, why is your winter 2018 collection called AS WE GO?

With this collection, we started by researching a few different items that didn’t necessarily have a common thread. Eventually we decided to work with all of them, and let the clothes themselves be the evolution of this collection. We started with fisherman gear, army jackets, and accidentally-bleached trousers. The collection we ended up with became a collage of a militant/pacifist contemporary native. We consider our collection to be a temporary milestone in our work. 

How did you find your lead model for this collection, Muhammad Toukhy [pictured above right], and what was it like working with him?

We spent a lot of time in casting regular people, non-models, to take part in our photo shoots and performances. We like to express our designs by capturing people’s original interpretation of our garments. Together with stylist Shay Lee Nissim and photographer Asaf Einy, we scouted on social media until we found Muhammad just days before the shoot. He brought his courage and fragility to the process, and we were so glad to work with him. 

Do you consider yourself a “slow fashion” brand? 

We are a made-to-order company, meaning that we manufacture less and know with certainty that each of the garments we produce will have a home. We also made a large change in our ability to produce our pieces purposefully by working with specific fabrics. We still are able to offer almost every item from our last three seasons.  

How is your clothing extra spontaneous?

We try to design from instinct and not necessarily inspiration or sketches. We play with clothes and improvise with shapes and the body. The entire garment can change at any moment; ultimately it is not about the design rather about the wearer’s encounter with the clothes.

Aside from the gender-neutral aspect of the brand, how else do you address your cultural criticisms?

We always attempt to raise questions with our design, performances, or image-making. Within this is the Middle Eastern theme of the clash of different ethnicities, and the side effects of army and religious wear. Other topics we address are universal and human topics like camouflage and individualism within the urban landscape.

Do you feel a specific connection with Tel Aviv?

We are based in Tel Aviv and create here, so naturally much of the brand essence is drawn from Tel Aviv. We joke that Tel Aviv is a cardboard city; it is immediate, exposed, vivid, and improvised. We love to absorb all of that energy and to think about how our garments bring together those notions, as clothes are the clearest communication tool in the urban environment.

By Appointment Only(052-3216899/www.muslinbrothers-shop.com)

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