Behind Zadig & Voltaire’s tattoo-inspired capsule collection

Wearable art --->

[E]stablished in 1997, Zadig & Voltaire has always celebrated a rock n’ roll aesthetic and found inspiration from the art world. For SS17, the chic brand has launched one of their most exciting collaborations to date – a capsule collection designed with renowned New York tattoo artist Virginia Elwood. Entitled ‘Circus & Pirate’ it has just about everything we love right now. Skulls, pirates, roses and mermaid motifs adorn denim, biker jackets, reversible bombers and silk camisoles. It’s wearable art with a folk attitude.

We caught up with Virginia Ellwood to talk about the process of turning tattoo designs into high fashion and her favourite pieces from the collection.

How did the collaboration with Zadig & Voltaire come about?

I met Carol Gerland [Zadig & Voltaire communications director] briefly in Paris through a mutual friend and she reached out to me a few months later with the idea for a collaboration. After speaking with her and meeting Cecilia Bönström [artistic director] I knew I just had to work with them. The care and thought that Cecilia puts into everything she does is very inspiring to me. I’ve learned so much during the course of this project… and had a great time too!

What is it about the brand that you particularly connected with?

I’ve always loved Zadig’s classic but tough style. It’s the perfect mix of high and low, elegance and rock and roll.

In what ways does designing for skin differ from creating prints for fashion? Was your process the same?

The style that Cecilia and I chose look like real tattoo designs, but the similarities stop there. Designing for skin is much different than for textiles because the skin is always growing and changing. Tattoos will age with your skin so you have to make sure you create an image that will stand the test of time and still look good in 20 years.

Talk us through the motifs you’ve used for the collection?

Tattoo imagery is very strong, iconic and usually filled with symbolism. Some of the classic motifs revolve around mourning and death, but I wanted to show the bright, fun and fresh side. Skulls, mermaids, ships and roses are all designs that I love to tattoo on people, and it was a really fun challenge for me to make them “wearable” in a different way.

Which pieces are you most excited about?

I’m not usually a big dress wearer, but I love all the dresses. The denim indigo one piece is amazing, and so are the boots and jackets. I’m having trouble picking just one favourite! Cecilia and her team took my drawings and made them into something cooler than I ever could have imagined on my own.

Where do you go when you’re in need of inspiration?

I have a huge collection of art books at my studio, so if I’m feeling the need for some inspiration I’ll spend an afternoon pouring over them. I also find a lot of inspiration in other people, whether it’s in a meaningful conversation or just as an observer. Living in NYC is wonderful because I only have to look out my window to see something new and intriguing.

Can fashion be considered as art?

Absolutely. For me fashion is an extension of my creativity, and is essential to my process.

What trends in tattoo art should we be looking out for this year?

Because tattoos are permanent and often very personal I always hesitate to point out trends. Humans have been permanently marking themselves for our entire existence, and of course there are styles that gain and lose popularity over time. I have the same thought about tattoos as I do with fashion: if you like it, you should wear it regardless of what’s in style at the moment.

Follow Virginia here and Zadig & Voltaire here.