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Shiri Zinn, who stirred up the sex toy industry some 20 years ago with her luxury ‘designer dildos’, has just launched a new range of pleasure products likely to appeal to many fetish and BDSM fans.
Called Tribal, the range includes a selection of colourful and beautifully finished items suitable for bondage and BDSM play. The chosen name reflects the use throughout the range of decorative African glass beading in vivid geometric patterns.
With the exception of her ballgags (intended only as art pieces or decorative neck wear), all Tribal pieces follow this designer’s ethos of offering luxury quality combined with erotic functionality.
The current range includes collars/chokers, strap-on harnesses (available with or without matching dildos), bondage cuffs, eyemask-style blindfolds and an extendable leg-spreader bar.
A feature likely to increase appeal for many potential customers is that almost the entire Tribal range uses vegan leather.
Everything except her strap-on harnesses (currently available only in Nappa, aka soft lambskin) is fabricated from top quality black or coloured faux leather in either silky smooth or faux ostrich (dimpled) finish.
I first encountered Shiri Zinn nearly two decades ago when she approached me about the possibility of some coverage for her posh dildos in Skin Two magazine (which I then edited).
A recent postgraduate of London’s Central St Martins School of Art (which had produced latex designers like Robin Archer and Stephen Fuller), Shiri had thought we might be interested in her work even though it was not ‘fetish’ in the conventional sense.
Boasting two BA Honours degrees — one in Fine Arts and one in Fashion Design with Marketing — plus a Masters in Jewellery for Fashion, Shiri had created a range of glass dildos combining erotic function with the sort of high-end aesthetics only a master jeweller could impart to such an item.
The unprecedented sense of exclusive luxury she had brought to a hitherto rather pedestrian category of erotic implements very much chimed with the design principles we admired at Skin Two.
Consequently, in our 40th issue published in the summer of 2002, Shiri Zinn became the first (and perhaps the only) dildo designer to grace the magazine’s pages during my tenure.
And now, a mere two decades later, I find myself showcasing her work again, this time on The Fetishistas.
But now we’re talking about items that are intended to appeal to fetish and BDSM tastes.
In her new Tribal range, it’s possible to see parallels between Shiri’s bold use of colour — even the black pieces sparkle with colour from the decorative beading — and the way latex clothing design has increasingly embraced colour in the last 20 years.
But this, as far as Shiri is concerned, is nothing more than coincidence, since she has “never been influenced” by trends in fetish fashion. She says:
“Colour has always been my thing in design, if you look at my life’s work over the last 23 years (the age of my brand), and even before as a fine artist!
“My palette is highly coloured to the extreme, yet always with the simplicity of large areas of flat colour. I was very influenced by Cubism. I painted in much the same way!”
Tribal’s use of colour is, she says, far more related to her consistent appreciation and use of bright colour in general.
Although she has just added black to the new Tribal range, it is primarily to cater for those who prefer black’s classic fetish appeal.
What made Shiri choose vegan leather for most items in this collection?
Actually, she explains, soft vegan leather is more durable than Nappa (aka Napa), and she would prefer to use it for all Tribal pieces rather than “sanction killing hundreds of lambs to make the new collection”.
But at the moment, the smaller minimum order quantities available on Nappa enable her to make less stock than she would have to make using faux leather. The only other real leather item she still makes is her Limited Edition Snakeskin Whip.
“If I ever went ‘mass’ on such items I’d choose vegan every time,” she insists, “but for now my straps are in lambskin. I have in the recent past made vegan straps but had to buy larger stock, which did not suit me.
“I’ve also found, if focusing on quality of vegan material, there is absolutely no difference from Nappa leather these days, as one can get vegan versions that are as soft as silk!
“This is also important to me as a designer, as I do not want clients to have anything inferior in quality if I can help it! So I’ll continue buying some real leather until the tipping
point of mass production. From that point, I will never support real leather instead of vegan alternatives.”
Shiri adds that she does not eat meat herself, and would “prefer to kill less animals where possible”. But using vegan alternatives “depends on what is affordable, and possible, at the time”.
Turning to what led Ms Zinn to incorporate the colourful African glass beading that inspired the new range’s name, she explains:
“I was born and raised in Africa, and the new Tribal range is very influenced by my formative years, my heart, my roots and my art education there, which inspired me in many ways.
“The designs I create are painstakingly designed by me and take many hours to the last detail. All original. ‘Many hours’ here refers to months and months of slog; it looks pretty but it’s bloody hard to get it all to come together.
“I create exactly what I want and am hard to work with,” she admits, asserting that this is what makes her “a true artist rather than a flexible designer”.
And to be crystal clear, she adds, “Tribal refers to my own African roots and not to other types of ethnic backgrounds in various other parts of the world I have no affiliation to.”
Nappa strap-ons excepted, two styles of faux leather — smooth and ostrich (dimpled) — feature in Tribal designs, and many of the pieces are available in either style.
Below, you’ll find all Tribal BDSM designs described in brief, and you can view examples of everything in the Tribal Bondage gallery included in this article.
For comprehensive details and beautiful photography of Tribal pieces and Shiri’s other creations in their respective materials and colour options, visit shirizinn.com. The website is also the only place where you can buy her Tribal Sets.
BLINDFOLDS Eye mask-style blindfolds in vegan leather with decorative flat beaded strip are available in blue or gold and black. Price: £38
BONDAGE CUFFS These sturdy, adjustable ankle cuffs are made in faux leather with an integrated steel centre section and feather trim around the centre O-ring. Price: £104
CHOKERS These ornate bead-adorned collars come in several faux leather base colours and feature a metal O-ring at the front to attach the optional matching chain leash. (A few blue chokers in bonded lambskin are also still available.) Prices: £118.50 with leash; £98.89 without
GAGS The beading on Tribal ballgags look amazing, but use for actual gagging is not recommended. They are best regarded as art pieces or statement neckwear, since in the mouth, the beading could be a safety hazard. Price: £123.33
RESTRAINTS Under this heading currently resides just one item: a decoratively beaded, extendable metal leg-spreader bar. Price: £123.33
STRAP-ONS & MATCHING DILDOS These strap-on harnesses with rear beading trim are made only in real Nappa leather (lambskin), and the only colours currently available are turquoise/blue and a brand new black version. The harness O-rings are sized to accommodate most dildos with flanged bases, or you can buy a matching ceramic dildo. Prices: £177 with dildo; £118.40 without.
SPANKING TOOLS The Tribal range offers steel-reinforced paddles decorated with flat beading strips on the reverse side. Price: £64. The Spanking Tools section of Shiri’s site also includes her two most expensive Limited Edition pieces: the Snakeskin Whip (£1,888) and the Flail Whip (£5,444).
Shiri has actually been creating Limited Edition Couture whips for some 23 years.
Her Limited Editions can change hands for thousands, and, she says, have been bought as works of art by “A-list celebrities and even a prime minister”.
I don’t suppose, I venture, that she can namecheck any of those customers? In response, she offers one example, because “there’s nothing secretive about buying art”.
Among her past clients was musician/ producer Dave Stewart. He bought one of the Limited Edition Snakeskin whips as a birthday gift for his ex-wife Siobhan Fahey.
“That particular whip is made by not two or three but five craftsmen!” Zinn reveals.
“I am the one who designed it in every part and speckle, and who then runs around from city to city with a vision of getting that one metre piece crafted until the whole piece is created.
“This takes two months! It’s truly an art piece; it’s very hard (and painful) to create in all its glory, and should be far more expensive for the time I put in. It’s a staggering amount of work.”READ MORE – GO TO PAGE 2 OF 2
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