Fashion Tattoos: The Stories Behind The Ink!

Whether it was the result particularly raucous spring break in New Orleans, the product of working in a tattoo parlor in high school, or something else altogether, the story behind your first or your favorite tattoo is bound to be worth telling. We fashion people know that trends come and go, so the fact that tattoos are as permanent and personal as they are is something to cherish. That's why we've tapped some of R29's best friends in the fashion community to show off their ink and reveal the stories behind the designs. Who knows — it even might inspire you to commit (or re-commit!) to another piece (or five).
Photographed by Clarke Tolton
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Scott Campbell, Tattoo artist, countless tattoos

"I have so many amazing tattoos from incredibly talented artists. I've been lucky enough to work alongside and get work from some of the best hands in the business. But honestly, the ones I'm most proud of are the ones that you would probably consider my worst. The handmade, illegible scribbles done by people I love are the ones that I enjoy the most. They remind me not to take myself too seriously."

Photographed by Clarke Tolton
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"I'm not one who tries to convert the non-tattooed. Don't do it unless you have your own reasons for doing it. But, I did have a dream the other night that I was 16 and living back in New Orleans, and I tattooed 'Fuck The Police' on Damien Echols. That was fun."

Photographed by Clarke Tolton
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"My tattoo pet peeves? Reality shows."

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Sarah Kuhn, Designer and Musician, 3 tattoos

Photographed by Greg Manis
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"I was living in London at the time and getting quite immersed in the music of that lovely, green land. I found a bootleg single of The Stone Roses' 'Elephant Stone,' which had their iconic lemon image on the front. Their music spoke to me because of its combination of dance-floor beats, '60s guitar, twisted lyrics, and loads of swagger and attitude. The myth behind the lemon was that Ian Brown, the lead singer, had met a French man who had been in the '69 riots, who said that lemons had been used as an antidote to tear gas. I like how graphic it is, and chose my shoulder as a nice spot for it. A tattoo artist by the name of Mr. X at Into You) did the work. He went out and bought a lemon and did it by looking at that rather than the image I brought with me! Since then I have had many people wonder if it is bicycle wheel, or...on the subway I get asked if it is a different kind of slice...a pizza pie!? Classic New York, ha."

Photographed by Greg Manis
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Chelsea Leyland, DJ, 8 tattoos

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"Basquiat is one of my all-time favorite artists. He brought so much to the art world, and this is my way of paying respect to him. I also wanted to get another tattoo by the cross, so that it would almost look like I've doodled on myself with a pen."

Photographed by Greg Manis
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"My big tattoo was very spontaneous. I planned it that day, and my friend (who is also my favorite tattoo artist, Liam Sparks) made it for me. We designed it together. "

Photographed by Greg Manis
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Stacey Clark, Designer of Odilon, 12 tattoos

"I did two myself; one is on my foot and says 'whatever,' and the other is a question mark on my left hand. The 'whatever' tattoo is an homage to perpetually feeling like a reckless teenager. The question mark on my hand was inspired by the 1981 film 'Christiane F.'"

Photographed by Clarke Tolton
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"The skull on the back of my left arm is one of my favorite tattoos — my best friend Kerry has a matching one."

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"Five [of my tattoos] have been done with a gun, and the rest have been done at home, stick-and-poke style with a safety pin and Indian ink. Most are small, some are unfinished."

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Bradley Soileau, Model and DJ, 55 tattoos

Photographed by Greg Manis
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"The tattoo on my forehead was a big fuck you to everyone, and also it's the truth: There is a war inside my head. It's also a song by the Suicidal Tendencies."

Photographed by Greg Manis
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Bradley showing off his face tattoos.

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"The strawberry with the nipple isn't an amazing tattoo, but the story behind it is. It was done by my friend Thomas Butera who was apprenticing at a shop in Baton Rouge. It was Thanksgiving, and neither of us were hanging out with our families, and we were at the shop, drinking. No one came in all day cause it was a family holiday, so we were pretty drunk when this woman walked in saying she wanted something sexy, so Thomas and the woman shot a couple ideas back and forth and then, hammered drunk, I gave her the idea of getting a strawberry with a nipple tattooed on her, have the nipple dripping chocolate sauce, and the words 'naughty girl' in script around it. It was so good, I had to have it for myself."

Photographed by Greg Manis
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Karolina Maszkiewicz, Owner-Operator at Weekend Lovers, 2 tattoos

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Karolina shows off the tattoo along her right side, in its full glory.

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"Years ago, I had a motorcycle crash, the result of which is that I almost lost of my right arm. I've always got a reminder in the form of road rash (gravel embedded in the skin on my forearm). It looks as if I forgot to scrub my arm in the shower. Once, I even had somebody chase after me with a napkin. To bring balance to my arms, I got a hare tattooed on my left forearm. Now, I have the before on my left and the after on my right."

Photographed by Clarke Tolton
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May Kwok, DJ, 7 tattoos

Photographed by Greg Manis
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"I got this unicorn skull done at Three Kings tattoo in Greenpoint by Jason June. Originally, I wanted a 'cute' unicorn, but my boyfriend talked me into getting a dead unicorn. I love how decayed the skull is, but something about how gruesome it looks makes it even more beautiful to me."

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"I got the feather done with Lyz Olko from Obesity & Speed by Diego at Daredevil. I've always wanted a feather tattoo. I love the shape and softness of the feather. Diego nailed it."

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Theo Kogan, Founder of Armour Beauty, Musician, countless tattoos

"I can't really count how many I have. I sometimes say, 'two big ones' (referring to my arms), even though my legs also have a bunch. So, okay, 'four big ones.' :)"

Photographed by Greg Manis
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"The cupcake is actually a friendship tattoo, and it was done by Scott Campbell, who is amazing. Looking at it makes me hungry."

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"Arm bands that don't go all the way around the arm drive me insane. Also, being asked what my tattoo means by strangers. Most of all? Being touched by strangers. No touchy!"

Photographed by Greg Manis
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Sidney Prawatyotin, Vice President of Fashion at Krupp Group, 13 tattoos

"Kate Young once called me a 'litter box of tattoos.' She's right. I have a bunch of them on random parts of my body that don't make any sense. For now, let's just discuss the bird on the hand. It's a cover-up of a cover-up. It was originally a pitchfork a few of my friends got over a decade ago (see it here). I loved it, but Marilyn Manson was big back then and Club Med commercials kept on playing that summer (for the record, I was neither a goth nor planning a vacation where you pay with fake money). Anyway, on a trip to Thailand, I decided to cover it up with whatever the tattoo artist thought would be best. The damn thing ended up looking like like a Batman symbol! I didn't mind until the new Batman with Bale hit in theaters. Long story short (yes, there's more, but you can ask me if you ever bump into me), I covered it with a bird, then the rest of the flock followed. I should've gotten seagulls."

Photographed by Greg Manis
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"If you wave to me and I flip the bird at you, I'm just waving back."

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Anna Sheffield, Jewelry Designer, countless tattoos

"I honestly haven't tallied my tattoos since I got over four or five…there are some little ones mixed in with my sleeves and quite a few on my legs. I tend to think of them more as collections than individual tattoos."

Photographed by Greg Manis
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"My whole left arm is kind of Tibetan Buddhist themed…lots of Thangka painting-inspired flowers with a little dash of some other mystical elements thrown in. I got the Sanskrit tattoo when I was reading several Hindu texts, the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana among them. I just really liked (and still celebrate) the virtue it implies — of knowledge I am wisdom. It means to take what you learn and be wise as a result — not just to gather but to apply the information and become a more understanding, insightful person."

Photographed by Greg Manis
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"The tattoos on the sides of my hands are two of my all-time favorites. I love their placement and how dainty they are. There's one on each of my wrists, so when I hold my hands together and up (like in prayer), they make a 13. The little church key is the '1' and there's an Om for the number '3.' I got them on my brother's birthday, which is April 13. The day he was born was one of the happiest days in my life, so those tattoos for him. My dear friend Henry Lewis did the little 13 for me, years ago in San Francisco. He did several tattoos on me. Actually, I got most of my of tattoos while I was living in California, but my first two were done by Debbie Inksmith in Jacksonville, FL. I also have several from NYCity."

Photographed by Greg Manis
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A bumblebee on Anna's leg.

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Hayley Phelan, Fashion News Editor at Fashionista, 3 tattoos

"I have three tattoos all together, but two are in places I can't show off in decent company!"

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"I got this tattoo during my first year at NYU, when my mom came to visit me. We went to dinner and had this great idea to get tattoos together with my older sister, who had also just moved to NYC. So, after dinner, we walked to St. Marks and walked into the first tattoo shop we saw. My sister chickened out, but my mom and I went through with it. I can't think of a better person I could have shared it with — it's like a little bit of her is always with me!"

Photographed by Greg Manis
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Jen Mankins, Owner of Bird, five tattoos

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"When I was 16, I met this really cute guy who drove a hotrod and was a tattoo artist who quickly became my boyfriend. Needless to say, my parents were not amused. He gave me my first tattoo, which is a small weeping willow tree on my shoulder. I didn't show it to my parents for like two years. I have since incorporated it into the big piece that takes up most of my upper back, on the left side. I guess you could say he started it all."

Photographed by Greg Manis
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"The star tattoo on my foot is my favorite — spring break 1996! A bunch of us from Brown and RISD rented a house and drove down to New Orleans from Providence. One of my girlfriends started up a serious flirtation with a local tattoo artist one night at a bar. Next thing I know, he was over at our house with his equipment giving us all free tattoos!"

Photographed by Greg Manis
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Pamela Love, Jewelry Designer, 12 tattoos

Photographed by Greg Manis
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A seeing eye, and "Matthew," the name of Pamela's fiancé.

Photographed by Greg Manis
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"My favorite tattoo is the one of two arrows crossing on my middle finger, from when I was on a road trip in New Mexico. It just really reminds me of that trip, which was a memorable and important time for me."

Photographed by Greg Manis
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