Review: Shiri Zinn Vegan Leather BDSM Beaded Collar and Lead

As a writer and reviewer for the Erotic industry for over a decade, I sometimes feel I’ve seen it all. However, there’s one brand which consistently produces items to excite and enthral even the most jaded or hardened hack: Enter, Shiri Zinn.

Björk wearing Shiri Zinn’s red harness and dildo

I’ve written before about the oh-so delicately beaded, red leather strap-on harness I received from Shiri Zinn along with a coordinating ceramic, gold-leaf dildo – as seen on Bjork, above. Six years on, this decadent duo in its remains in pride of place in my extensive whoredrobe (what can I say, a burgeoning sex collection comes with the territory!). Since then, the matching harness and dildo set has been extended to some twenty-two items with the same glass bead detailing. These include ankle cuffs, an eye mask, a ball gag, a collar and lead, a paddle and an ornate spreader-bar, each available in four separate shades of vegan leather. As Shiri explained, ‘The Shiri Zinn website is the only place you can find a matching set.’

I asked Shiri to explain how she came up with such a diverse colourway for her latest beaded BDSM collection, ‘My inspiration was do something difference for the fetish industry, to do something that’s not like the usual drab black, and to do something very colourful and beautiful that borders between jewellery and couture, which is what my brand is known for. I tried to find the absolute best quality vegan leather, and is PU of the finest, silkiest quality. I’ve used beautiful ostrich print for the gold and black but kept the red and teal smooth.’

Behind such ostentatious presentation is a lengthy design and developmental process, as Shiri explains: ‘The patterns, the formations, the shapes of the beadwork are my own, as are the patterns: I spend a lot of time in RND creating these patterns. Then, from drawings and re-drawings, I have my own samples created. I had this idea for a BDSM Couture range for about ten years, and I translated it in a very short time, although the development and quality control of the actual collection took a full year – which is a short time for me: my i-Scream [vibrator] took two years, as did my Cupcake [vibrator], as did the very desirable red strap-on harness in lambskin, which was such an amazing hit I made it in different colours… I had a problem with using leather for that, but at least lambskin is a by-product, and I feel much better to have since created a vegan leather collection.’

In transitioning from leather to vegan leather – this despite the runaway success of her original lambskin harness – it’s clear Shiri Zinn is not one to rest on her laurels.  As she explained, ‘I do use animal fabric too, but sparingly in limited editions. I just think mass production is not necessary if there are other options: my red leather strap-on harness is not mass-produced, nor is my limited-edition snakeskin whip. I feel more comfortable doing vegan collections for fetish: the nature of fetish can have a kind of Dominance or submission which I don’t like associated with leather: so much of the industry uses leather and I really don’t see the need to slaughter animals en masse in order to have sexual pleasure. I’m not going to judge, but I’m no longer going to design anything myself which is just classic leather; where the beauty is in the leather. Hence, I made something very beautiful and put the focus not on the exclusiveness of real leather and its smell, etc, but more on the exclusiveness of real jewellery, handcrafted to perfection. So, each piece must be treated as delicate because it is delicate jewellery. However, it’s wearable and durable.’

As spellbinding as Shiri Zinn’s latest collection is, it would be remiss not to address the subject of cultural appropriation. As the Africa Fashion UK website elaborates, ‘For many years, African communities have been the source of inspirational ideas, unique raw materials and many other contributions to fashion – but they have not always benefited from the success of the international fashion industry they have inspired.’

I happen to share a workspace with a Ghanaian guy called Will, and our friend Violet – who’s from Kenya – popped in as I was writing this piece. Clearly cultural appropriation is a significant concern that I’m unable to discuss here in any depth, or with any personal integrity seeing as I’m a white Brit. However, my friends were happy to share their thoughts: Will said that Shiri Zinn’s choker was ‘really very beautiful’, and that for him there wasn’t an issue with cultural appropriation as long as the Africans making the items were being paid properly.

Meanwhile, Violet – who coincidentally sells Kenyan jewellery as a sideline – was also complimentary about the design. She felt a collection featuring African designs and handiwork could only serve to boost the profile of African jewellery in general. That said, they both acknowledged theirs were only two opinions and other Africans may feel differently, ‘there’s a whole continent out there’, offered Will. Neither he nor Violet had any issues with Shiri stating, ‘The African style is very close to my heart – I was born there and lived there for 20-odd years. I’ve worked with African art since my schooldays, and my entire portfolio from my four-year Fine Art diploma was built around my African-style photography and paintings. Basically, I’m a white African designer.’

Model Katie Marin

So, what of the manufacturing process of Shiri Zinn’s beaded BDSM collection? Understandably, Shiri prefers to keep the production process close to her chest: ‘I don’t like to disclose my trade secrets, but of course it’s nice for consumers to know. So….  the items are Fair Trade and made in an indigenous rural environment. They’re made by genuine craftspeople for which a Fair Trade price is paid – which the Shiri Zinn brand supports. Each one is painstakingly handmade, no two are the same, the beading is real glass beads’.

From handstitched beading to handmade glass, each item from Shiri Zinn boasts a uniquely personal touch – something a mass-produced brand would never be able to achieve. An ethical designer who’s keen to move with the times, be it vegan or Fairtrade, Shiri makes exquisitely styled sex accessories unlike anyone else. So, have we seen it all? I doubt it. Shiri Zinn is a niche – yet vital – tastemaker for the luxe end of the adult industry: with every new release she blurs fashion/ art/ fetish boundaries to propel her vision perpetually forward. The Shiri Zinn brand will remain relevant because it’s unique and subversive enough to be timeless. Prepare to be excited and enthralled.

Visit the Shiri Zinn website where, according to the designer herself: ‘If you buy 3-6 pieces of the BDSM collection per colour you get a 10-20% discount – if your chosen items are in stock’.