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LUNA post: Models with ink: haute or not?

So I’m just returning to writing for LUNA after a nice long South American adventure, and thought that I should really update WP with the articles I wrote before I left…so here we are.


Models with ink: haute or not?

Gone are the days, it seems, when models were expected to be completely perfect specimens – no marks, moles (except maybe Cindy) and rarely a freckle; blank canvases to show off designer threads.And while they still have blemish-free complexions, never-ending legs and killer cheekbones, it’s becoming increasingly more acceptable for models to decorate themselves with more than diamonds and Dior.Tattoos are no longer just the domain of sailors or tribal markers, infiltrating popular culture as they are proudly worn by celebrities, musicians and actors – and now they are much less taboo on the catwalk too.Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the veterans that has made tatts palatable – if not covetable – in the fashion world.

Kate Moss recently chatted to Vanity Fair about her lower back tattoo of two sparrows – but don’t worry, this is a classy tramp stamp, ladies and gents, designed by revered German-born British painter Lucien Freud.

The late artist is famous for his detailed and often disquieting portraiture, and also painted the model herself, with the work selling for several million dollars.

Moss oh-so-articulately explained how her ink came about:

“He told me about when he was in the navy, when he was 19 or something, and he used to do all of the tattoos for the sailors. And I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s amazing.’ And he went, ‘I can do you one. What would you like? Would you like creatures of the animal kingdom?’ I mean, it’s an original Freud. I wonder how much a collector would pay for that? A few million?”

But not all models are fortunate enough to receive personalised priceless designs from renowned artists, and many choose to make much more bold choices than Moss’ small and easily covered additions.

Emerging French model Kelly Palcy, who also has a number of prominent piercings, has a huge flower tattoo covering her back, and several on her arms, but this has not stopped her from appearing in spreads for Flaunt Magazine or walking for Issey Miyake.

Then there’s Rick Genest – aka Zombie Boy – who has walked his intricate decorations down the runway of Thierry Mugler.

While most practice modesty (the now-ubiquitous star outline appears on the skin of Abbey Lee,Gisele and Heidi, just to name just a few), even the beautiful people aren’t immune to some rather bad choices.

Chanel Iman has a coat hanger on the back of her neck (inexplicably with her own name etched underneath), Cailin Hill has huge sparrows which look like an unfortunate case of firecrotch, andAnja Konstantinova has both a ‘MEOW’ inner lip tatt plus a babushka and giraffe on her side.

Our own Catherine McNeil recently showed off  ‘R.R.’ on her ribcage in her  November Vogueshoot; a (presumably) regrettable tribute to former girlfriend Ruby Rose.

Rose, a VJ, (recent) popstar, designer and, of course, model herself (she came second in the 2002Girlfriend Model Search, coincidentally losing to McNeil herself) hasn’t let her extensive ink slow her down.

She bared all for PETA’s ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur’ campaign, proudly displaying everything from her rose-themed tramp stamp to tiger sleeve, as well as appearing in shots for Inked Magazine.

But not everyone agrees with this particular mode of accessorising.

Isabeli Fontana’s angel wings, carrying her son’s name, have previously been Photoshopped out in a Victoria’s Secret catalogue (possibly because they’re hideous, as they’ve also been removed for her work for Cesare Paciotti), as well as Alessandra Ambrosio appearing noticeably minus her crescent-shaped back piece when modelling for the lingerie brand.

Daniel Meadows, professional photo re-toucher told that often it comes down to just basic composition of the image:

“If it’s about a dress or a hairstyle, and all you can see when you look at the shot is this tattoo, it’ll be taken out.”

Indeed, as Freya Beha, who has numerous text-heavy tatts, had the word ‘float’ on her neck removed when modelling a diamond necklace for a bridal shoot.

But tattoos have still been flaunted on covers globally, from Vogue to Grazia, suggesting the stigma attached to ink (whether viewed as cheap or just a blatant mistake) is subsiding.

Removed from the world of high fashion, there are also a huge array of labels and pageants that have embraced illustrated models.

Inked Magazine regularly shows off alternative models, SuicideGirls has a worldwide following, and Miss Ink Australia contestants are put through the same rounds as bare-skinned counterparts.

And although some photographers and agencies are a little less than keen to work with tattooed models, designers have well and truly accepted decorated beauties on catwalks, making no attempt to cover up designs.

But as well as embracing the individuality and beauty of their models’ ink, they have also cashed in on the trend by making tatts the latest in covetable accessories.

We all know those $5 chain and sparrow temps that you can buy from your local chemist, but labels such as Louis VuittonRodarte and Gautier adorning their runway models with temporary tattoos.

Chanel’s Artistic Director of make-up, Peter Phillips, also created a line of wearable art for Karl Lagerfeld’s 2010 Paris collection, penning temporary garters, pearls, and naturally, the fashion empire’s interlocking C, so Lagerfeld lovers could show their devotion without actually going under the needle.

No stranger to excess, the sets retailed at more than the real thing – coming in at $90 for 55 designs.

However if this trend subsides, Moss has thought of a lucrative way to pay for laser surgery, “If it all goes horribly wrong I could get a skin graft and sell it!”.

Don’t let anyone tell you she’s just a pretty face.


Published at LUNA Digital.


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