Tamar Levit and Yaen Levi came together to create Muslin Brothers in 2011, a fashion house that embraces its local culture and heritage to innovate through not only clothing, but art, film, spatial design and experience. They talk us through one of their latest showcasing at Jerusalem’s Design Week, where they reinvented the classic M65 field jacket into eighty new models. Through their I’m feeling lucky installation they prompted visitors to wear one of their jackets and immerse themselves into the space, an army of strangers coming together to experience Muslin Bros.
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How did Tamar Levit and Yaen Levi come together to create the Muslin Brothers? We’d love to learn about the origin of this fashion house.
Muslin Brothers was founded in 2011, initially looking for an antitheses experience for the fashion (and design process) we had in fashion school. For us it was a lonely and stressful experience, whereas working together we find ourselves putting our ego aside, exploring collaborations with the dance world, address clothes as cross-discipline culture forms and research concepts like spontaneous fashion and emotional documenting.
Emanate to the Middle East and the unique local atmosphere, we are influenced by the new Israeli culture forged by immigrants and locals from various traditions living in this boiling pot that is vivid, hot and honest. Random people will say what they think in your face at any given time.
Not only do you produce collections, but present them in exhibitions, installations, and performances. How was this idea conceived and what do you want to accomplish with it?
It happened pretty organically. We see Muslin Brothers as something bigger than a fashion label but a collective that creates various products like performance, installation, video, cultural content, art direction, spatial design and obviously clothes and accessories. Let it be clothing making or performance/installation, these paths influence and intertwine with one another, in form and in context.
You often deal with cultural and even political issues through your clothes, and even through the brand’s name. Has it been challenging to deal with serious issues through a creative outlet?
We make fun of the fact that in Israel you never know if you'd be standing tomorrow, so there’s no reason to plan ahead and do everything that you can today instead. So no, it isn't challenging. In this case, Muslin Brothers allows us an alias platform to express and research those notions. Clothes hold the heavy burden of describing culture, heritage, gender, and social-economic classes. But not only that: it wraps all of these around our body; it’s tangible and evokes our own emotions. Using social criticism is embedded in our vision, but we also like to soften this in a poetic or playful way.
Having said all that, we have had criticisms from people within the industry that simply say fashion and politics don't go hand in hand. We're sorry, but we find this perception out-dated.
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Tell us a little about Island, the installation you presented at Jerusalem Design Week.
I'm feeling lucky is the fashion island presented during Jerusalem Design week last summer; Islands was the theme for this design week. We were assigned the former post office space and we altered it and turned into an abstract artificial desert. The 70-squared-meter room was lit up by fluorescent light, gradient from yellow to hot orange, and the floor was cover in sea sand. Numbered from one to eighty, the coats were available for each visitor to randomly pick and received for a limited time to walk in with. We looked at it like an apparel crash test, a test that in order to succeed has to fail.
But we must add a few clarifying words about the project. I'm feeling lucky is a spatial work and live installation created especially for Jerusalem Design Week 2017. I usually get dressed is the performance performed in the installation space during the design week. On these two projects we were working with a group of creatives: Maayan Goldman (writer), Shay Nifusi (product and space designer), Omer Sheizaf (lightning designer), Asaf Einy (photographer), Shay Lee Nissim (stylist), Guy Fishman and Eden Farkash (models of the performance), Shay Kukui, Shay Buziashvili and Daniel Zakay (models of the photoshoot). 
You created eighty variations of the M65 field jacket for this installation. What does this jacket represent to you and what would you like it to represent to others?
We worked with the M65 field coat – a combat coat that was designed especially for the United States army to use in Vietnam War in 1965. The same coats were later donated to the Israeli army and became iconic. Everybody simply calls them ‘the American’, representing the desire to be westernized. Outside Israel it became iconic as well, the coat was the informal uniform of anarchists. Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro wore them in Rocky and Taxi Driver respectively, and today the style is manufactured in any fashion giant around the world. It's one of these all-time items. Each one was slightly different in the fabric – which ranged from sheer organza to crunchy plastic–, the lacing detail, detachable patches and the layout of the pockets or the metal eyelets.
We think it evokes a number of references because this item has been around for half a decade. Whether it is war, occupation, anarchism or the feeling of being a tourist. It covers a range of associations that goes to a variety of geopolitical backgrounds. We as designers experienced a great test after designing eighty variations of one item. We’d never worked like this before.
What was it like to see all these people coming together and wearing your creations?
We absolutely love to see the way people that are not necessarily our typical customers wearing Muslin Brothers, we learn the most out of it. In the I'm feeling lucky installation it was the haul point as the visitors were asked to pick a number and then assigned with a random coat. Walking on the sand floor changed completely the way most of them usually walk. Ultimately we wanted to position a big mirror in the installation so people could look at themselves but also see and be seen by other strangers wearing the same coat. The selfies were hilarious! Unexpectedly, more than a few people didn't want to wear garments that they cannot purchase, that really surprised us.
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“We do clothes. No gender. Extra spontaneous.” This is a message the brand stands for. Who do you envision wearing your garments?
Our customers are very diverse, there isn't a clear demographic, and we don't see a reason to limit it. We try to simplify and reduce our aesthetics to abstracts, like one colour, basic geometric forms or a variation on generic items. There is something that is shared with all our customers and it is the urge to challenge.
Do you believe this genderless trend will fade in time or is it the future of fashion?
Genderless is fading now, but at the same time unisex, gender blurring, androgenic, non-gender are always there, only the buzzword is different.
You produce garments made to suit the customer once the order has been placed, a move into becoming a more sustainable brand. Is sustainability in the fashion industry a significant worry for you?
Yes, we are so pleased to work with a made-to-order system. Being a small brand, it’s not so much about the material but the human resources. We work with professionals that like their job, and we sell to customers who choose their garments carefully. We wanted to work in this format for years and we finally did it three seasons ago. Ever since, our life has been much better! The next step will be to find the courage to exit the loop of the crazy fast season system and find a better solution to work by.
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