If Lupe Fiasco is nervous about his first runway appearance, it doesn't show. The American rapper and friend of Song For The Mute designers Melvin Tanaya and Lyna Ty flew into Sydney earlier this week to walk in the brand's MBFWA show. Backstage, he's sprawled casually in a chair, patiently waiting for the line of media interviews ahead while Ty and Tanaya chat alongside him.
The three of them have an easy chemistry, bouncing off each other with ideas and jokes. Here, they reveal how they came to be friends in the first place, and what's in store for the upcoming Song For The Mute show.
Lupe, you’ve been following Song For the Mute’s career for some time now: how were you first introduced to the label?
I went shopping at Harrold’s and came across the line. I’m very investigative about clothes, so I wanted to know where the label was from. Lyan and Melvin were working in the shop at the time and that’s when I found out it was their label. So I got in contact with them again and bought some of their clothes. Then I got a chance to visit the studio and see them making the line, and three years later, here we are!
So it’s a very organic friendship between the three of you isn’t it?
Melvin: Yeah definitely.
Lupe: Very much so. We’re good friends.
Lupe, you’re making your catwalk debut tonight: how do you feel about that?
Lupe: It’s not really like a catwalk, it’s just a box right guys?
Melvin: Yeah, a pedestal (laughs)
Lupe: No, it’s cool. I’m not even thinking about it. I mean I’ll just put on some clothes, walk to the end, turn around and come back again.
Melvin: Yeah we didn’t think about that, are you nervous at all? (laughs).
Lupe: Well I'm going closing the show – I get to watch all the models do their thing first and then I’ll just copy what they do. It’s like cheating!
Melvin and Lyan, how did you get Lupe to come out here?
Melvin: We invited him to Paris initially to see our line in the showroom, and then we mentioned we were doing Australian Fashion Week. We just kind of threw it out there that we wanted him to come down and be in the show if he had the time, and then he was like, ‘Yeah I’d love to come!’ The next thing we knew, he'd booked his flights.
Lyan: Yeah, we were like, 'ohh he’s really coming'!
Melvin: That’s when we actually had to get organised.
Lupe, how often do you come to Australia?
Lupe: I’ve been to Australia about 20 times.
Melvin: He knows better places to eat than we do.
Give us some tips!
Lupe: Harry’s! (laughs) Anything with a first name is good. I love Bill’s in Surry Hills. I’ve been there every morning for breakfast. The ricotta pancakes are out of this world.
Melvin: Whenever I pick him up for the airport, I’ll ask if he wants to go take a shower or anything, but he’s always like, “No, let’s go to Bills,” (laughs).
Lupe, you're somewhat of a designer yourself - can you tell us about that?
Lupe: I wouldn’t go so far as to say I design – it’s more that I come up with ideas. But you know what, I’ve done so much, that I forget I’ve done it. I’ll look at the archive closet and be like, ‘oh wow, I made all these suits and I forgot all about them!’ (laughs).
How did you first get interested in fashion?
Lupe: I have a couple of friends from Japan who run a label called and Phenomenon and Swagger, which is streetwear. Phenonemen is a little more experimental, and they asked if I wanted to do a collaboration. I was like, hell yeah! We did a winter collection and I came up with all this weird shit, like a rabbit’s hat and space jackets – and it sold out! So I thought, maybe I can actually do this. But it was a very natural process. I always said that if I didn’t have a good idea, I wouldn’t do it. So if I only have an idea for one jacket, that’s all I’ll do. Fashion is hard, I look to the professionals for the design side.
Melvin: He has a great style of his own though.
Lyan: Yeah, you’ve got a good eye Lupe.
What do you think about other celebrity lines, like Kanye West’s for example?
Lupe: It’s good to see, but I think there’s a fine line between really making good clothes and celebrity-hyped clothes. At the end of the day, the clothes will always speak for themselves. No matter how big the fashion show is, or how much marketing money you put behind it, or how many magazine ads you take out for it, if the clothes don’t stand up by themselves, without anybody in them, then it doesn’t matter who’s making them.
What’s your favourite piece from this season’s Song For The Mute line?
Lupe: Ohhh, see that grey sweater over there? I call it the sophisticated hobo look. I love it (laughs). I’m taking it home.
Melvin: Not yet though, it has to get down the runway first.
Lupe: As soon as the show is over, I’m stealing it.
Jay Z has had an influence in your career – are you guys still friendly today?
Lupe: I got my first record deal when I was in a group at age 19, long before I knew Jay Z. He executive produced my first album for Warner Music though. So it wasn’t my first deal or the first step in my career, but it was the first time I got to release an album. It was pretty cool. We help each other out. It wasn’t just one-way, I’ve done stuff for him too. We see each other from time to time still.
You recently collaborated with Ed Sheeran – what was that like?
He raps! He’s a full-on rapper. It’s crazy right? Ed’s a good guy. The song did really well.
What do you want to say to Melvin and Lyan before the show tonight?
I'm happy for them. For me this is ongoing though, it’s another step in our friendship. It’s like, yeah, we have a fashion show on tonight, but I’m more interested in what we’re going to be eating afterwards (laughs).
Melvin: We’ll be eating, trust me.