Empire of Genius

Locally manufactured clothing is rare enough in New Zealand, but to be able to see the designer adapt your one-of-a-kind garment in-store before your eyes, is even more special.

And that’s exactly what Tymone Winter is bringing to Wellington’s Newtown, with the opening of her first Empire of Genius boutique.

Winter says her goal is to make the everyday outfit feel like a celebration of the finer things in life – garments that instantly make the wearer feel uplifted and glamorous.

“In an era of fast fashion, I allow my customer to slow down and get a garment made specifically to suit their style,” she says.

“Visitors can see the design process, choose a piece, and have it tailored to perfection. Whether that’s an altered hem length, a different style sleeve, or a waist pulled in, this unique service ensures their purchase will give optimum joy from day one,” she says.

Winter focuses on natural materials of silk crepe and fine leather, with hand tooled ‘leather lace’ a specialty, and using fabric from vintage silk saris for colour. Each piece is impeccably finished, and samples are constructed using vintage kimonos instead of calico.

“I have been working sustainably since before it was fashionable – it really is at the foundation of my work,” says Winter.

“The leather lace, I hand tool because I like the ‘wabi-sabi effect’ – which is basically celebrating the beauty in imperfections. I feel that when you laser cut something or it’s machine made, you don’t notice the details.

Winter says her goal is to make the everyday outfit feel like a celebration of the finer things in life – garments that instantly make the wearer feel uplifted and glamorous.

“But if it’s hand cut, you can feel it in the garment. It’s like food being made with love. People can see it and taste it, like when something’s been cooked in an Italian kitchen by your grandmother.”

Winter’s fashion journey started as a 12-year-old, going vintage shopping with her mum in Wellington, finding amazing silk vintage dresses from the ‘40s, and beautiful old wool crepes, which are so hard to come by now.

“I’ve always been a hunter of beautiful things, I suppose,” she says. “From a very young age, I just had a wardrobe full of all this stuff, so when I was about 16, we’d just have big dress-up parties at my house before we went out to our events and things. It was my favorite thing, so, I decided I needed to do it as a job.”
Winter started by selling her creations in her mum’s shop in the Wakefield Markets – where many of Wellington’s fashion designers started out back then.
She also made jewellery out of zips in her twenties, selling wholesale to about 20 shops all around New Zealand.

Now, with the Empire of Genius brand approaching eight years in business, and a long list of loyal clients in her appointment book, Winter feels the time is right for her own boutique.

A beautiful old Victorian shopfront became available in Newtown’s bohemian Constable Street at just the right time, so she grabbed it. And since the store opened she’s been run off her feet, handmaking enough garments to keep the racks full, as well as tailoring custom alterations and making custom orders.

“I’ve got a lot of people who have one of my garments, and they sometimes are a little bit surprised at how many compliments they get on it – sometimes you don’t want to be the center of attention, but there are times where you want to look elegant and feel amazing. There’s nothing like that feeling, is there, when you go into a room and you just feel elegant,” she says.

Winter confesses that there’s been a lot fewer opportunities for that elegance in recent years, but the number of orders she’s receiving suggest that trend is on the turn.

“I do think that everyone’s going to get to the point in the next year that they’re ready to open up their dress-up wardrobes again after being in their lounges for so long.

“So, I can only hope we’ll see more beautiful dresses being worn at events again soon,” she says.

Empire of Genius, 74 Constable Street

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