THERE IS A DISMEMBERED Adidas sneaker sitting on top of a workbench inside the Sydney studio of Song for the Mute. With green fabric stapled to its outer and tape wrapped around its sole, it looks more like a conceptual art project than an early prototype for one of the world’s biggest sneaker brands. Yet that’s exactly what it is—an Adidas Campus sneaker that’s been nipped, tucked and reconstituted within an inch of its life.

“They gave us a pair of the originals, and then it was up to us to cut it apart and play with it,” explains Song for the Mute’s Lyna Ty. “Adidas really let us have that freedom to play around; mix and match things and do what we do best on clothes, but on a pair of shoes.”

Her co-founder, Melvin Tanaya, pulls the final product off his own foot—the first shipment from Song for the Mute’s new Adidas collection arrived hours earlier, and the brand’s small team of 12 have been test-driving the shoes around the studio. “The Campus is so iconic in its shape and design—it was a really popular skate shoe in the ’80s,” adds Tanaya. “For us, the interesting thing is: how do we pay homage to that while also reinterpreting it in a way that feels right for us? Like, Lyna is always asking herself: ‘does this feel like ‘Song?’”

Early process images of Song for the Mute x Adidas Originals’ Campus and Shadowturf sneakers. A new colourway in the Shadowturf will be released later this year. Image: courtesy of Song for the Mute

Song for the Mute launched its first collection 13 years ago. Since then, the brand run by childhood friends Ty, who is the creative director, and Tanaya, the brand director, has evolved into Australia’s most exciting ‘IYKYK’ brand—its rope belts and raw hems may not be recognisable to the untrained eye, but, as the acronym suggests, ‘if you know, you know’. And there are plenty of people who do know. At the opening of the brand’s first flagship store in Sydney last month, where a crowd of magazine editors, celebrities, friends, fans, suppliers, mums, dads, aunties and uncles gathered, almost everyone was wearing a piece by the brand, and not because they were paid to do so.

An image from Song for the Mute x Adidas Originals Collection 002 campaign featuring the Campus sneakers in black. The October limited pre-release for the black Campus sneaker colourway sold out at Song for the Mute’s Flagship store within 3 hours. Photography: Atsushi ‘Jima’ Nishijima

Tanaya and Ty will tell you that Song for the Mute has evolved—and survived—through a series of intentional “baby steps”. Longevity, not exponential growth, has always been the goal. Which explains why ‘Song’, as it’s known by its cult following, has remained such a word-of-mouth brand. But word spreads. And if you’re creating something really good, it will often reach the right people and places. Which is exactly how Patrick Ng, the vice president of Adidas Originals APAC, discovered the brand.

Song for the Mute’s Collection 002 mood board, with references to architecture, sci-fi films and Adidas Originals’ designs from the turn of the century. Image: courtesy of Song for the Mute.

“It was around 2018 and I was really looking for a project that could have a strong Asia-Pacific impact,” says Shanghai-based Ng, when I catch him on the phone. “At that time, it was all about the Kanye sneakers, and the Pharrell collaboration—all of those big names. But I wanted someone who could bring a different flavour. I remember, I was speaking to some friends when I first came across Song. I started seeing them in more and more stores and it caught me. I thought: what’s happening here?”

Ng thought their take on craftsmanship, textiles and colour was compelling. “Everyone is doing that ‘handicraft’ thing now, but not many brands were [doing it] back then,” he tells me. It felt fresh, and he wondered what Song might bring to Adidas. “To be totally honest, at that point in time I wasn’t too sure. It wasn’t really like I had an idea of how it would turn out; it was really like an exploration.” So Ng contacted Tanaya via WeChat and he’s been working with the duo ever since.

Creative director Lyna Ty. Photography: Darren McDonald
Brand director Melvin Tanaya. Photography: Darren McDonald

The first Song for the Mute x Adidas collection, or ‘001’, dropped in October 2022. Ng had told Ty and Tanaya the Shadowturf sneakers, which were Song’s first-ever shoe design, were predicted to sell out in two days. They were gone in ten minutes, and the apparel didn’t stick around much longer. The demand was so high that almost immediately, Adidas decided ‘002’ would get a global release (001 was only available throughout the Asia-Pacific).

Now, the brand is gearing up to do it all again on a much bigger scale, with an even more recognisable sneaker.

It is, Tanaya acknowledges, a very big step. “Adidas is so big… it has a totally different kind of reach,” he emphasises. But big steps can be taken with a baby step mentality, and similar to the way they approach their own brand, when it comes to the Adidas collab, Tanaya and Ty are in it for the long haul.

An image from Song for the Mute x Adidas Originals Collection 002 campaign featuring side zip track pants and windbreaker from the collection and the Campus sneakers in beige. The beige sneakers drop on October 20. Photography: Atsushi ‘Jima’ Nishijima

“Patrick has said to us: if there’s a lot of excitement around the first launch, it will be an easier ‘enter’ into the market. If your first drop is successful, usually the second one will still have some heat. It’s the third one that will really tell you if the partnership is long-lasting,” explains Tanaya. “So we still take every step very carefully and seriously.”

So far, things are looking promising. It’s well known that a sneaker collab’s success can be gauged by what it’s fetching on the resale market. Song for the Mute’s reimagination of the Shadowturf is currently going for over a thousand dollars in some sizes; its original RRP was $230.

Ng tells us that during a recent trip to Germany, where he presented Song for the Mute’s 003 collection internally, “there was a lot of interest in the brand”. And not only from a product perspective. Ty is a gifted storyteller, and everything she creates is deeply inspired by a person, place or period of time. The campaign for collection 002 is a perfect example. Photographed in New York by Japanese film set photographer Atsushi ‘Jima’ Nishijima, who’s known for his behind-the-scenes photography on films from Birdman to The Place Beyond the Pines, it features a multigenerational cast of characters going about their day in the city.

Song for the Mute x Adidas Originals Campus sneakers in beige. Photography: Atsushi ‘Jima’ Nishijima

“It feels right for the collaboration, because Adidas is for all,” says Ty. “We like capturing the in-between moments. Like this man, for example, who is just tying up his shoelace.”

Back in Song for the Mute’s studio, Ty gestures towards another pair of unreleased track and field-inspired sneakers—they will come out early next year, as part of Song for the Mute x Adidas Originals 003. “We always love to look to the past and bring archival things back to life,” she says. Next to us are boxes of the Campus, which fans all over the world will be lining up to buy shortly after this magazine comes out.

“I think Melvin and Lyna… they really stand for something,” says Ng, when I ask him what makes Song special. “They are consistent but they bring a surprise each season. I think for consumers, it’s like a comfort food that tastes a bit different every season.

“I want to bring their creativity into different areas of the brand, because they are not limited to fashion only. The way they work is very unique, it goes deeper than the products, into values, culture, and just a perspective into the world. Which, I think, is a very interesting source of creation.”

Photography: Atsushi ‘Jima’ Nishijima

Song for the Mute x Adidas Originals collection 002 will be available to purchase from Friday the 20th of October on both and

This story appears in the October/November 2023 print issue of Esquire Australia, on sale October 19. Subscribe here.


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