Muslin Brothers weaves raw elements and basic forms into their clothes. Poetic and casual characters are infused with humor, playfulness and cultural criticism. The silhouettes are structured to blur gender identity as they are designed for men and woman alike and adapt to different customers desires.
Established in 2011 and based in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. The label led by Tamar Levit and Yaen Levi, produces two collections a year, creating its own venues and showrooms for sales and exhibitions, fashion installations and performances. The label also produces costumes for theater and dance companies spanning a range of international platforms.
For muslin brothers fashion plays a significant part in cultural production, human communication and urban space comprehension. Thus they transgress the borders between public and private, negotiating the will to stand out or recede, known social forms and rituals into unknown surreal appearances.
Hello! Let me start with your name, you have said it’s a pun on the fabric and the Islamic movement, two very different things, how did it come to being?
Before launching our label we used to walk around Tel Aviv with a third friend, who like Yaen had a long beard and cut hair (it wasn’t that trendy as it is today), it was the time of the Arab Spring and in Israel you would hear nonstop about the Muslim Brotherhood. One night we entered a place we used to go to a lot, and one of the regulars customer went: “ho, the Muslim Brothers are here” and ever since it has stuck to us. When we were thinking of a name for our brand, we wanted to use an anonymous name that doesn’t involve our names and we liked the fact that it is local with a hint of political critic. It is very ironic how external appearances are translated in other people’s mind, as if once you have a beard, it means that you are Arab/Muslim/terrorist/idealist?
Then we thought about making our name more fashion oriented and thought about muslin- a light and simple fabric used widely to create the first prototype of the garment.
Has the political environment in your home country played into your name and your work at all?
Definitely, first of all because we use fashion as a medium for us to express our thoughts and beliefs, but mostly if you live and create in Tel Aviv, it is a guideline for your aesthetics for sure.
How did you two meet and start working together?
We met in Shenker College of Design in the fashion department. After school everyone was working on their own projects of costume and fashion design, but in the same working space, we were both a bit exhausted from fashion being so competitive, serious and lonely so one night we suggested working together and that was that.
It is a good way to eliminate ones ego when you work together, as one of us would start a garment and the other would finish it the following day as he sees.
“Gender and sexual orientation are extremely diverse, so it seems to us it is impossible to sum it up for the customer in just feminine or masculine.”
Although you are ‘brothers’, as your name suggests, your designs are unisex. What drew you to this?
We are a duo that consists of a woman and a man, so organically we try on our own prototypes – making most of our garments suitable to men and women alike. Gender, we believe, like religion and nationality, is a theme that we are interested to explore and touch upon instead of just taking for it granted. Gender and sexual orientation are extremely diverse, so it seems to us it is impossible to sum it up for the customer in just feminine or masculine.
What message do you want to bring across in your designs?
It is probably all about the dialogue between the clothes and the customer. Our designs raise questions about gender, sizes and origin. It is the performative effect of actually wearing it in real life that provides the dialogue between a person and the society they live in.
Your clothes are quite playful, do you feel fashion is a bit too serious at times?
For sure, one of our main goals as designers is to create spontaneous and fresh fashion, one that doesn’t necessarily plan in advance and that is formed by the contrast of a shaped material and the moving human body. Humor is a key element in our design aesthetics as cut and paste simple and primate combinations. It seems that fashion evolves mainly from politics, money and time, and that is simply too boring for us.
You work with all natural fabrics, any particular reason for this? Do you take a lot of inspiration from nature?
No, it is an actual climate need when you design and sell in the middle east 🙂
We actually are fascinated by artificial industrial processes like wrapping and flattening techniques as well as plastics. We are obsessed with nylon and our first collection was inspired by garbage plastic bags and was 90% made of nylon… it failed miserably 🙂
Talk to us a bit about your latest collection, ‘Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence’.
This collection was formed around a missing element- working with notions that describe something that no longer exists. In Israeli geography there are many wadies (plural of wadi)- a dry water path that is filled with water only in winter after it has rained. In Hebrew they are called ‘deceiving rivers’ . We translated our one deception into geometric forms cut in raw edges, surprising cleavages that expose the delicate spine creating intriguing negative spaces, and the usage of vast surfaces with the cloud print and emerald grass green fabric.
Where do you see Muslin Brothers going in the next five years?
We would love to continue doing what we do but just on bigger scale! Collaborating through nontraditional fashion shows is something we love to do and we wish to do them more often. Collaborating with a Palestinian designer/artist is something we have been planning to do for a while now.
We would love to have our own atelier with all of our manufactures working together in one space. Travel the world! And launch our own socks line.
Favorite fabric to work with
YAEN: Upholstery fabric.
YAEN: Codes and decoders.
TAMAR: Feeling, especially rebellious.
First thought when you wake up
TAMAR: Let me go back to sleep.
Summer or winter?
Beach or downtown?
TAMAR: Gin and Tonic.
When I am 90 I want to be…
TAMAR: 90 is good timing to resign from life.