Should getting a tattoo be any less chic than buyinga well-tailored suit or a custom-made gown? Of course not. After all, you can always return the suit. At least that’s how New Orleans-bred, Brooklyn-based tattoo artist Scott Campbell sees it. “Aesthetically, tattoos and fashion have a really obvious parallel in that you’re changing your appearance,” 33-year-old Campbell muses while sitting at Diner, a restaurant not far from Saved Tattoo, the parlor he opened in 2004. Saved actually looks like a parlor—not a strip-mall ink shop, but the kind of sitting room found in 19th century New York townhouses. So it’s fitting that Campbell has become something of the couturier of the tattoo world, etching the skins of such famous clients as Orlando Bloom, Sting, and Gemma Ward. Campbell recently returned to New York after a long intermission, traveling for various projects, including exhibitions of his fine art works. Examples of his formal art pieces are wall-mounted frames of uncutsheets of dollar bills, sourced directly from the U.S. Mint, which have been filigreed into shapes such as a skull and a gun. After showing work in Miami and Mexico City in late 2010, Campbell unexpectedly ended up in Paris.“I’d pretty much sworn off everything besides fine art work, but then the opportunity came to work with Louis Vuitton and I was really excited about it,” he admits. It probably didn’t hurt that Campbell had just ended his most recent Mexico City art exhibition in a dispute with the gallery owner—one that Campbell settled by hauling his work out onto the sidewalk and setting it on fire. Campbell’s invitation to work with Louis Vuitton initially came from one of his tattoo clients, Marc Jacobs, who believed that Campbell’s finely detailed etchings would be a strong source of inspiration for the upcoming men’s accessory collection this spring. After a meeting with Louis Vuitton men’s design director Paul Helbers, “They sent me a bunch of materials and said, ‘Here, figure out something cool to do with it,’” Campbell recalls.“We ended up doing these bags that are layered, a lot like my dollar bill pieces. It’s one layer of leather that’s been cut to reveal another layer, black and gray, so it really feels tactile.” Most importantly, it’s a bag that Campbell proudly admits that he would be happy to carry—no small boast from a guy who has a fondness for the “cash-criminal lifestyle” of a tattoo artist and who began his career alongside a one-eyed ex–sign painter in a down-and-dirty shop in San Francisco. As Campbell admits, “Tattooing has changed so much since then.” Just ask Louis Vuitton.
Photo: Scott Campbell at Saved Tattoo in New York, January 2011. Jacket (on Chair) and Shorts: Scott’s Own. Styling: Patrick Mackie. Grooming: Sarah Sibia/See Management.
Click here to see the work of Scott Campbell.