Ed Hardy was interested in my tattoos. When I was 15, my dad took me to have one. I explained to him that I had gotten a yellow rose tattoo on my ankle. It’s a girly tattoo for a 15-year old. Ed Hardy claimed that his first tattoo also featured a rose. He buried his under black clouds—a decision that later in life, he tells me, he would come to regret.
Hardy’s tattoo was a design I got back in May. His son Doug was on my right, while he delivered ink to me. Ed was visibly emotional as I watched him watch his son create one of his first designs ever on his wrist. It was a design he had sketched in 10 year old.
Hardy’s publicist had emailed me a week before to inform me that Hardy would soon be visiting New York City for an exhibition. Hardy Marks’ latest titles—in a series of emails she futilely tried to persuade me into believeing this was significant, but to me Ed Hardy was mostly known as the guy behind those lame T-shirts you see on Jersey Shore types. I finally, somewhat facetiously, replied “Can you interview Ed while he gives my a tattoo?” While I was expecting the unanticipated “No,” I received an enthusiastic, “yes” instead. It was a decision I made, but I knew that stigma would not stop me from doing it. However, Ed no longer tattoos so the “yes” would have to come from him. I interview Ed. There we were.
Donald Edward Talbott Hardy was just a teenager when he started his career as a tattoo artist. He said that he became interested in tattoos at the age of ten. “I began drawing for neighborhood children when I was ten.” My first tattoo was a colored pencil one on children using Maybelline Eyeliner. I continued that practice for three years and then started to draw all the flash. (Flash sheets These are the things you will see when you walk into a tattoo shop. These sheets and photos were kept by his grandmother, which makes it easy to see the early days of his tattoo art.
This is the first time that one of my drawings from ten years ago is being put on as tattoo,” he said to me. He told his son he was doing a good job, then he explained the design’s origins, or at least what motivated him to include it on his flash at that age—”I grew up in the Newport Beach area, it’s a famous harbor, sailing town, all the movie stars had boats there… my parents weren’t in that economic strata, but I was around all these boats.” The tattoo industry recognizes a sailboat as an Americana style, which Hardy later abandoned to become more interested in Japanese design.
Hardy told me about how he turned tattooing into a job and an art form, beyond the traditional designs available in the U.S.
I got my undergraduate degree in printmaking… My path was to Yale and academia. [Hardy declined a graduate fellowship at Yale University]. Another tattoo artist I encountered in Oakland was a writer. I call him the part of “the renegade intellectual group”, this man who lived a life other than tattooing. I was shown a collection of Japanese tattoos. They were more intricate, artistically complex and highly sophisticated. Although I love all things Americana, that wasn’t the only option at that time. However, I was inspired by Japanese works and decided to use this medium. It was difficult to get in during those times. North America was home to approximately 500 tattooists. This was an entirely different world. There are so many people now who have tattoos. The tattoos were more casual than the street. This was not just a difficult task artistically but also to remove the stigma.
“Tattoos were the province of people living outside the constraints of mainstream society—sailors, hobos, and circus freaks,” Sailor Jerry Collins once said. Hardy met Collins long before either became Brands™, around 1969, when Hardy’s tattoo career began in earnest. He studied under him for years, and in 1973, when Collins suffered a heart attack and died, he left his shop to Hardy and another tattoo artist, Mike Malone—”if it doesn’t end up in their hands,” he wrote, “burn everything.”
Collins also helped Hardy with his initial work in Japanese style design—according to Hardy’s publicist: “Thanks to Collins’ rare connections with a number of Japanese tattooers, Hardy spent five months in Gifu City in 1973, working alongside Kazuo Oguri (Horihide), where he was the first Westerner to tattoo in the clandestine Japanese environment. According to Japanese traditions, the body was used as a canvas and would be used for one, long-lasting narrative design. It is a different form from Western styles that are more fragmented.
Hardy told me this is when a big change came for him—”I’d just been tattooing sailors and stuff, I was trying to upgrade it. From where I was [5 months in] Japan decided to open a private studio so that people could just come and say what they wanted, rather than offering some advice from the walls. Succeeding at this would become part of what is Hardy’s legacy in the world of tattooing—he helped bring the art form into the mainstream, and invited the customer into the design process.
Hardy’s name had already been widely known outside California by this point. I asked him about his “several customers” and he said that he was now well-known for creating custom tattoos. [in California]I had clients all around the country, so it was a great experience. Many of the wealthy New Yorkers who heard of me were drawn to my work by people they knew. They would visit me to have large Japanese-influenced tattoos done.
Hardy didn’t set foot in New York City, although he did open a shop at Washington Square for two weeks. He said that he had never been to New York. [these New York guys] I was actually a close friend of someone who went to Hamptons this summer. It was just a short stay. It was not something I did a lot of tattooing. The city had only a handful of tattoo artists.
Yes, tattooing can be done illegal in New York CityFor more information, please visit: decades. In 1961, following a hepatitis B outbreak, the city declared it “unlawful for any person to tattoo a human being.” This decision remained in effect. until 1997. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Hardy had been doing what he would have never been able to legally do in NYC—he opened Realistic Tattoo Studio, a small, appointment-only shop modeled after the private parlors of Japan, and the first of its kind in the States. His son Doug runs Tattoo City, which he also opened in San Francisco in 1977.
Doug tattooed his father’s sailboat on me while he was doing so. He then told me that he “moved back in San Francisco to assist my dad, who had retired from tattooing in 2009. Doug learned the craft from Ed and Sailor Jerry’s friend Mike Malone, who he worked as an apprenticer in Honolulu.
When I visited Kings Avenue it was clear that I had gotten a special tattoo. I have tattoo legends etched in my skin. To think that I suggested it as a joke. This is a total jerk. However, it is obvious that he was a jerk. These T-shirts
He is most well-known for his tattoos. But, it’s the garish T shirts that Ed Hardy is known best. People don’t know Ed Hardy exists. One day, while riding the subway, he noticed a woman in one of his shirts. He explained to her that it was his design and that Ed Hardy was the one who made it. Although he offered her a business card and she didn’t get it, he continued to confuse her.
This brand is bigger than its creator, who in his style innovation singlehandedly changed tattooing’s aesthetic forever. Christian Audigier, also known for his work as a designer at the Von Dutch label, is the one everyone points to.
Hardy’s designs can be found on t-shirts today, as well as wine bottles and perfume. There were also 70 sublicensees for Hardy’s names and designs at one time. This was all due to Audigier who, while not the first licensee, is the most prominent.
Audigier’s Hardy shirts Attracted Celebrities like Madonna Hardy said that Michael Jackson was first ….. However, this celebrity association may have led to the brand’s demise. “Christian worships celebrities too much. He will get next-to anyone famous for any reason.” Indeed. The brand saw a significant financial boost in the late aughts as the shirt was closely linked to reality TV star Jon Gosselin. Audigier was also photographed with Gosselin on a Cannes yacht. Hardy followed. spoke out, saying: “That Jon Gosselin thing That was the final nail in the coffin. That’s what tanked it. Macy’s used to have a huge window display with Ed Hardy, and it filtered down and that’s why Macy’s dropped the brand.”
Simon Doonan was once a proponent of the brand and by that point, he said it “represents”.[ed] Bad taste.” This seems to be still the consensus. Hardy stated that, in the end, it was “dehumanized by morons.”
The bio that I received does not mention the brand: “In 2005 Hardy licenses over 1000 of his designs to Christian Audigier in Los Angeles. He applied them to lifestyle products, and Hardy became a household name.”
So I asked Hardy about his own thoughts on the brand—following some off-the-record comments he shared with me in person, he told me this over email: “The amazing success of the Ed Hardy brand took me completely by surprise. Most of the images the licensee used came from flash I’d painted in the late ’60s-early ’70s—I had no idea about the degree of force and attraction these would generate. This was an unexpected win and the majority of people purchasing these products had no idea they were tattoo designs. This is probably the most bizarre thing I’ve ever experienced in my life full of amazing twists.
Hardy was not always polite in his conversation about Audigier. his 2013 book as: “ground zero of everything wrong with contemporary culture.” Audigier at the peak of its success.
Hardy also described in his book where the situation took a worse turn when Audigier altered his imagery and reported sales underreported.
Christian began to exhibit his megalomaniacal nature as the brand expanded. A design team was assigned to my original artwork, and Christian added his personal name to all of it. This became Ed Hardy by Christian Audigier and I was not happy with that. His face was featured on Los Angeles billboards for Ed Hardy. When I got home, the shirt had my image paired up with Che Guevera’s iconic Che Guevera Head. Instantly, I called the number. I was unable to have my photos altered like this. Christian was able to go to Steven because of an increase in sales. [Hoel, who managed Hardy Life, Ed’s ownership group] He negotiated with Hardy Life to have certain items paid annually in return for a lower royalty rate. Hardy Life lost $50 million easily in three-year royalties as a result of that deal. These numbers are beyond what I could even conjure, and I don’t allow it to bother me. Steven was not only aware that he had been conned, but Christian also made clear his disgust at the unauthorised editing of my artwork. The man was trading my name without paying me enough. Christian, Nervous Tattoo’s parent, sued us for $100 million.
Hardy Life was forced to pay $5 million for legal fees. The parties finally reached an agreement. Hardy became a partner in the company. another companyAudigier’s Nervous Tattoo, Inc. held the majority of Master License Rights to Iconix Brand Group. Hardy has a 15 percent minority interest in the brand bearing his name.
Audigier’s death in July was this year. the NY Times Hardy was once referred as an “once obscure San Francisco Tattoo artist”. Audigier was faithful to his promises to Hardy, making his name famous. Hardy, however, didn’t think this would happen in the way he expected.
The man in real life is still breathing and active despite all the loud branding. Hardy’s first tattoo, which he got under black clouds, remains. He appears to regret his cloudy days more than his association with Audigier. The only thing that I regret is my early tattoos… These were black clouds that I covered… Now, you’ll know what I missed… Some of these mentors were mine, so I had the evidence and I put them in these clouds. There is a rose under that.