Are tattoos right for the runway?

Flash back to Milan Fashion Week, to the Gucci Spring/Summer 2017 show, and you may recall Latvian model, Lorens, wearing a bright pink sweater with GUCCI letters scribbled across the front, accessorizing with a glittery gold tie. But it wasn’t just the garments that stood out. His face tattoos, which travelled down to his neck and hands, caused quite a stir.

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Although only temporary, it raises the question; why aren’t there more tattooed models on mainstream runways?

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Face tattoos first appeared on major fashion runways in 1996. The rebellious connotations linked to tattoos, and their strong associations with gang and prison culture, may be a reason many have reserved feeling about such body art on the runway. The juxtaposition between elegant garments and tattoos is something many don’t understand. But with more and more brands getting increasingly edgy and creative these days, as inked models grace the catwalks at New York, Milan, London and Paris Fashion weeks. Chanel, Dior and Dsquared² are just a few of the fashion houses that have jumped on this inked up trend!

Dsquared² models wear tattoo bodysuits for the Spring/Summer 2016 Menswear collection.

Dsquared² models wear tattoo bodysuits for the Spring/Summer 2016 Menswear collection.

One man in particular who has been changing attitudes towards tattoos in the industry for over two years is Stephen James. The British model discussed his body art and the way they are perceived in high fashion in an interview with Vogue;

“I’ve been modelling for two and a half years, and it’s funny because I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve seen a real change in the way tattoos are perceived in the industry. When I first started working in Spain, the market was very close-minded when it came to tattoos. They don’t like a lot of edgy stuff, so I had to prove myself two or three times over. Now I find going to jobs is so much easier and tattoos have become the norm, but the neck tattoos and tattoos on the hands and on the head were hard for people to accept, especially for the more conservative brands.”

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With other big fashion names such as Kate Moss, Jourdan Dunn, Cara Delevingne and Kendall Jenner all sporting tattoos on the runway, is it time for the fashion world to get over the stigma surrounding tattoos?

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Text: Afua Aidoo

ImagesDsquared2, @muscas3, Joshua Woods, Storm models

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