Paris Bennett

A star, a rose, a pair of swallows, a bow or a heart. These symbols are more than likely permanently “inked” on someone you know. From celebrities to the girl next door, we can all indulge in a little body art. You do not have to design it yourself: you can merely go to a studio, pick the image you like and walk out an hour later indelibly marked. Sounds dramatic, but why is there this craze to alter our bodies so radically?

Recently at the National Television Awards, Cheryl Cole “stole the show” with her “trampstamp tattoo”. Not her dress (although it was cut to maximum advantage to reveal the tattoo) her shoes or her hair. But her personal body art. Both of these quotes come from tabloid newspapers, indicating the diversity of opinion surrounding tattoos; their significance, the social perceptions which envelope the decorated among us. Historically tattoos signified rites of passage, a mark of status, and indications of bravery. None of which can be applied to Miss Cole’s choice. They were also recommended to seafarers, in order to reduce the problems of body identification, should they be unfortunate enough to drown. However that is a hazard of that trade which Miss Cole will never have to endure. However, it is undeniable that tattoos mark you, allow you to stand out. They provide a mask to our interior, with the freedom to choose any skin exterior. Thus, turning a blank canvas into a work of art.

Fashion is purely a means of communication. We interpret what or who you are wearing before we hear you speak. But we can always strip ourselves from these material prisons. Adopt a fresh persona the next day, that is more on trend than yesterday’s. If clothing within fashion is merely dress up, a playful affair, it is flimsy and superficial; ‘softcore’ adornment if you will. Tattoos are surely ‘hardcore’, more than skin deep. Tattoos are currently fashionable, but the danger here is that tattoos, unlike a new skirt, cannot be returned to the store if you change your mind.

Thierry Mugler’s new creative director, Nicola Formichetti, presented a very dark and subversive collection in which all models appear to be strikingly illustrated with tattoos. The male models pounding the catwalk are reminiscent of warriors, in line with the foundations of a brand founded on its fancy for superhero inspired silhouettes. Gimp masks were a crowning feature to the new Mugler look, and complimented the densely doodled skin of the models.

Ironically the clothes flaunted were plain and wearable. The collection titled “The Anatomy of Change”, did not in reality show originality. The concept of style over substance potentially could be validated, especially given the above fashion evidence. The tattoos, used as a form of accessory, gave an illusion of innovation, but essentially mask a dull truth.

Formichetti’s muse and the main model in the new Mugler campaign is Rick Genest, a.k.a. Zombie Boy. He was discovered through Facebook, and his body arts makes him achingly on-trend: head-to-toe skeleton tattoos, with blackened eye sockets and a ghoulish tomb stone teeth design across his face. But what happens when he becomes, to quote Clueless, so last season?  

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