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Melbourne label Unempire has been quietly hustling over the last three years, having expanded from creating tongue-in-cheek sock designs, to other accessories and now limited numbers of apparel as well (thanks to fellow streetwear entrepreneur Emma Lee of Mama Millions). For their third birthday, the brand has showcased their latest collection in a shoot that celebrates their unapologetic independence, in and around the Preston home of label-owner and self-proclaimed Unempress Zoë Lea.

Speaking on the challenges of being a one-woman-show, Zoë is pretty adamant about calling the shots. “Choosing not to compromise my creativity and taste over selling shitloads of units [has been the biggest challenge]. I could’ve easily fallen into a really commercial place when I first started, because $$, but it isn’t who I am at all. Unempire is an extension of me, so as long as I’m doing stuff I like, and a few others dig it, I’m happy.”

And she makes sure she’s in good company, taking business and style cues from Kanye West and Rihanna, as well as HLZBLZ founder Lawn Alabanza-Barcena and Supreme’s Angelo Baque, while surrounding herself real ones within her own circles.

“It’s hard getting out there and getting exposure when no one knows who you are, but I’ve met some real squad along the way (you know who you are). Finding that support network and people to bounce creative ideas off is so valuable.”

The shoot (which you can see highlights of above) is a collaboration with some of her closest and most creative friends – photographer Timothy Treasure, model Hanye West, and of course Mama Millions’ Emma Lee.

After three years, and a quick dip in the apparel pool, Unempire will be moving on to bigger and better things in the near future, with the intent to enter the unisex streetwear game. So keep your eyes on this space. In the meantime, cruise through our selects from the shoot above and make sure to show your support to the local label via their webstore.

Weekly updates