Paul Smith and Tattoo Artist Mark Mahoney Collaborate on a Fashion Collection

Tattoo-inspired fashion has often titled into the flamboyant, a la Christian Audigier. Instead, the results are a much more restrained affair—blazers, hooded sweatshirts, T-shirts, scarves, leather chelsea boots featuring tonal embroideries.

“I wanted to do something that was beautiful and unexpected,” Smith explained. “Tattoo motifs have been used so many times in fashion,” Mahoney added. “So many times it’s gaudy, there are too many colors, it’s too eye-drawing. My tattoos look like their a part of … like they’re in the skin, not on the skin. And that’s exactly how this collection works, they’re in the leather, they’re in the fabric, not just on it. It’s intrinsic.”

Paul Smith and Tattoo Artist Mark Mahoney Collaborate on a Fashion Collection
Paul Smith & Mark Mahoney

As the fashion industry is increasingly led by large corporations, Sir Smith noted that he’s an independent—;the buck stops with him—and that projects like this help him stay creatively nimble. “There’s a lovely, scary sentence I think of often. No one cares how good you used to be.” For that reason, Smith says, he’s dabbled in designing non-fashion objects that include a Leica camera and bicycle. “You’ve got to do things that scare you.”

Paul Smith and Tattoo Artist Mark Mahoney Collaborate on a Fashion Collection
Paul Smith & Mark Mahoney 

It’s that ethos, in part, that has made his Melrose Avenue store, which, with its Pepto Bismol-pink facade, the most-Instagrammed building in California. That’s right: Paul Smith, for better or worse, essentially invented the “Instagram Wall” before the social media platform even existed. “That’s the luxury of being the owner, of being independent. You can take risks. I know LA is flat and wide, that everyone drives a car, that Melrose is 20 miles long. I knew I needed an Eiffel Tower, something that made everyone stop and notice.”

Paul Smith and Tattoo Artist Mark Mahoney Collaborate on a Fashion Collection
Paul Smith & Mark Mahoney
Paul Smith and Tattoo Artist Mark Mahoney Collaborate on a Fashion Collection
Paul Smith and Tattoo Artist Mark Mahoney Collaborate on a Fashion Collection

While Smith works with fabric and Mahoney with ink and needles, both men are entrusted with the fine art of memory making. Smith, after all, dresses men for their weddings (not to mention actors when they’re up for a big award) and Mahoney’s work often commemorates important milestones — the birth of a child, the death of a loved one. It’s work that neither takes lightly. “In this homogenized world, we’re keen on people being able to express themselves,” said Smith. “They’re individuality, through tattoos or clothing.”

While the fashion industry has certainly evolved over the years it’s maybe Mahoney who’s witnessed the biggest sea change — from outlaw to icon — all the while watching tattoos move from fringe to mainstream. “They definitely weren’t always socially acceptable,” he said. “It was much more underground, and in some ways I miss that. But in another way, I’m just glad that now everyone can everyone can experience a tattoo and how good it makes you feel.”

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