Tymone Winter is a woman under the spell of making, dynamic and inspiring with an elegance and edge that produces designs with a singular voice. The latest collection from her label Empire of Genius is handmade by Winter in her seaside studio in Shelly Bay on the wild reaches of the Maupuia peninsula. Employing a technique she pioneered for leather conceived whilst manufacturing her premier collection ‘Slasher’ for the label, she takes to the hides with a hammer and chisel, working on the diagonal which transforms them into a malleable fabric. Empire of Genius launched ‘Slasher’ at Exhibitions Art Gallery and since then she has refined the process, I recently attended the launch of her winter 2017 collection, aptly named ‘The Chain Gang’.
Billed as a night of gastronomy and fashion the extravagant presentation of the Empire of Genius collection kicked off on a crisp and star spattered night in Wellington. We were shown to our table by the gorgeous hostess dressed in magenta leather lace from the collection, the lace is produced using an individual stamping method and I was close enough to admire the superb craftsmanship. The tables were modishly dressed by Wiki Waitai with goodies from local artisan producers, including a leather scented perfume from Wiki Skincare, custom made for Empire of Genius for this occasion. I was fortunate enough to be placed adjacent to the roaring fire in the courtyard of the fabulous Bresolin restaurant, stunningly transformed for the night into a catwalk.
After sampling the delights prepared by superstar chef Lucas Tock, the lights tailored for the space by the exceptional Peter Stobbard signaled the beginning of the feast of fashion. Opened by model Anja from Kirsty Bunny Management in an outfit cunningly styled by costume designer Amanda Neale, the models sashayed through the restaurant to the sounds of Freya Staer from Pure Luck , the song produced by Ninjirachi. With hair by award winning salon Willis York complementing the exquisite dewy look created by makeup artiste extraordinaire Amy M.C, every element here slid together at a level of professionalism that is a joy to experience. With glamour abounding on both the table and catwalk, Winter understands that the right team elevates a show to an event.
This designer has no choice but to make, the drive is in her blood. Her mother ran shops with her own knitwear designs in the 70’s in Wellington and here is where Winter finds the seeds for this latest collection. Leathers are chosen for each garment depending on which works best with the different textile techniques Winter employs. The sumptuous leather hides of cow, lamb and deer she manipulates expertly with a
set of antique leather working tools, the incredible hues she extracts from the hand dying, all are skills borne out of being thrown into the business at a tender age. At 10 Tymone was told to make her own gymnastics attire, she cut a pattern off an old leotard and voila , her passion was ignited. Each garment in this collection, from the magnificent dresses with coruscating kaleidoscopes of colour, to the expertly draped jumpsuits made of the finest leathers and softest denims, speak of the genius of a brilliant mind coupled with a bounty of experience.
The star of the show is the bags, simplicity and artistry combine to make an item where form and function chase each others tail in a perfect circle. The Chain Gang is the solution we have been waiting for, your cellphone, glasses and keys, your lipstick and credit card all snugly tucked away in complementary purses. Custom designed by you as to size and shape anchored fashionably against your body on a slick, chunky gold chain, harnessed with brass parrot clips. With this innovative design you can navigate with ease and style through crowded streets, dance floors, or if you are very lucky, an Empire of Genius fashion show.
Review by Justine Boyd
Photography by Micheal Farr, Bex McGill and Tamara Jones