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When tattoos inspired fashion collections

Wearing style on the skin

When tattoos inspired fashion collections Wearing style on the skin

Tattoos are something universal, whether it is the ancient Roman soldiers, the sailors of the Second World War, Polynesian warriors or the Mayans, decorating one's body with drawings and engravings has always been a way of affirming one's identity, one's beliefs and one's values. Tattoos have been outrageous, provocative, iconic, sacred – and today they are widespread, proving their importance through different cultures and generations. The fashion world has certainly not been immune to their charm and, over the years, there has been no lack of designers who have rethought and reworked the aesthetics of tattoos for their collections. Here are the main ones.

Jean-Paul Gaultier – SS94 Les Tatouages

One of Gaultier's most legendary collections, described by Vogue as "a startling vision of cross-cultural harmony" and a fusion of heritage that ranged from Joan of Arc to African culture, passing through India and Southeast Asia. The main trick of the collection was to print the tattoo patterns on light, see-through and polychromatic fabrics but also on the skin of models and models, creating a very fine game of layering and transparencies that evoked an aesthetic that was christened global village chic. Even today, the garments in this collection remain among the most sought after and precious items that Gaultier's huge archive has to offer. 

Issey Miyake – FW71 Tattoo

This collection of Miyake is legend material: arrived shortly after the movement of '68, capable of merging the Japanese culture of irezumi tattoo (still associated with yakuza but actually much older) with the icons of youth and rock protests such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, both of whom died the previous year, this Miyake show took politics to the catwalk in a way that was unprecedented for the time. The revolutionary idea behind the collection was to take a "brand" that was usually hidden from clothes and take it to the surface, making it the protagonist of the dress and its social meaning. 

Rei Kawakubo – Comme des Garçons Homme Plus FW15

Rei is certainly the intellectual of contemporary fashion: for the Homme Plus FW15 collection, which debuted in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the mood was certainly gloomy and heavy and was reinterpreted through a collaboration with tattoo artist Joseph Ari Aloi, famous for his "scribbled" style in which religious images emerged, the name "Eleanor" and the phrase "Born to Die". The tattoos were printed, as well as on knitwear, on a series of tight tights that emerged from the sleeves and shirts. Other garments were decorated with Roger Ballern's distorted and disturbing designs while some looks had literal funeral bands sewn on the sleeves of jackets.

Paul Helbers – Louis Vuitton Men’s SS11 

Louis Vuitton's SS11 is not mentioned in many lists, yet the new "tattooed" pattern born under the direction of the then creative director Paul Helbers is perhaps one of the most beautiful and underrated ever produced by the brand. The collection was a kind of celebration of the bohemian aesthetic of the international jet set, with various infusions of safari aesthetics. Tattoos printed on the classic Louis Vuitton pattern, especially on scarves but also on a short-sleeved shirt that could be an archive piece for the ages had also been replicated on the bodies of the models to recall that love for exoticism that today is a bit incorrect but that was much appreciated in the collections of the time.

Demna Gvasalia – Vetements SS19

Perhaps the most iconic Vetements fashion show ever as well as one of the highest moments in Demna's career, Vetements' SS19 was a triumph of post-Soviet aesthetics and featured tattoos associated with Russian crime. A series of flesh-coloured tops walked on the catwalk creating an amazing nude effect that, mixed with oversized tailoring, reconstructed denim and sports track jackets brought a breath of Siberian education to Paris.