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They have designs on your body…

Fashion designer Terrence Bray chatted to Omeshnie Naidoo about his new ‘layer of dressing’.

.Hollywood actor Johnny Depp once famously said: “My body is my journal and my tattoos are my story”.

Mike Armstrong tattoos Terrence Bray's arm with his family crest. Picture: James GibbsMike Armstrong tattoos Terrence Bray's arm with his family crest. Picture: James GibbsMandy Milne on her wedding day in a dress designed to show off her tattoos. Picture: James Gibbs

So many celebrities express in the public realm the idea of tattoos as being intrinsically linked to a “chronicling” or “diarising” of their past or in a grander sense, history.

That’s precisely what prompted acclaimed iconic Durban designer Terrence Bray to ink his family chest on to his arm and across his chest.

Tattoos, once negatively stigmatised, have in recent years found their way on to the catwalk with designers like Amanda Laird Cherry and Colleen Eitzen sending inked models down the ramp.

Bray says fashion as a means of “adorning the body”, has embraced the genre of “artistic” body art (very different from getting a dolphin on your ass).

International model Freya Beha Erichsen has about a dozen tattoos across her body, one which read “Breathe” was splashed across a Chanel ad campaign.

Similarly, celebrity Angelina Jolie flashes her tattoos on the red carpets.

Marc Jacobs, arguably one of the global trendsetters of the moment, created a temporary tattoo range for a department store.

The prevailing ethos, no doubt about exploring unconventional beauty and individualism in a world that can change as rapidly as it does, has a way of staying the same.

Our local celebrity Bray, is in the same headspace.

“I first got a tattoo at 17. Why?

“Because everyone was getting one,” he says sheepishly.

“I never regretted it but I do wish I’d pay more attention to design”.

His current tattoo, which will happen in stages, is a cover-up but is rooted in research and meaning, perhaps gained from life experience at the helm of his own fashion label.

After designing a dress for client and close friend Mandy Milne, of clothing label Miss Happ, for her recent wedding – the dress was created to showcase her tattoo – |he says he felt the urge to get one himself.

“Getting a tattoo is like getting into a relationship. You have to be ready and you don’t rush into it.”

“The half-sleeve tattoo, which goes across my chest, is a creative interpretation of my family crest. After some research I traced my roots back to the knights of Normandy in France. I love the idea of preserving tradition.”

Tattoos may date back to the era of Vikings, who used them as a form of intimidation. They’ve come a long way – and for some people have meant not getting the job they wanted because of the stigma attached. However, its most recent reputation appears to be as a contemporary art form.

“I’d be happy to have mine signed,” says Bray of tattoo artist Mike Armstrong, who runs Artura Tattoos in Pietermaritzburg.

“The worse thing you can do is walk into any parlour and let somebody you’ve just met put a permanent mark on your body,” warns Bray.

“Mike is passionate about his work. It was just like getting a garment made. He took the elements I wanted and created a composition. I couldn’t impose restrictions though – it is, after all, an organic “artistic” process.”

I asked Armstrong, who is proof that you should never judge a book by its cover, what a great tattoo looked like.

He scratches beneath the surface, saying tattoos today are custom-made for their owners with the unique signature of the artist who creates them.

A tattoo isn’t as easily removed as you may think, and should be something you’re happy to live with. Fashion is fickle, says Bray, so for those in the industry, it’s the permanence that seduces you.

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