Berluti's Alessandro Sartori Teams Up With Brooklyn-Based Tattoo Artist Scott Campbell For A/W16
Campbell's hand in the collection can be seen in the linework patterns that trail across jackets, shoes and bag, even across the skin of some of the models.
Clustered in the desert of Far West Texas lies a minute city, housing a meagre population, the wide and wild surrounds of its desert environment hemming it in like an upturned cuff. Welcome to Marfa, a town of less than 600 families in the last US census. But also, perhaps a result of its raw landscape and middle-of-nowhere location, one of the core centres of the minimalist art movement. Fitting then that Alessandro Sartori, Artistic Director of Berluti, should be inspired by Marfa. It is untamed, spare, and on the culture compass, exists as a far point from Berluti, a brand that has grown up in the centre of Paris, at the very heart of its luxury.
For his journey to the Wild West, Sartori partnered up with 39-year-old Scott Campbell, founder of Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn, who is recognised by both celebrities and designers for his keen eye, deft needle and steady hand. A practising artist as well, Campbell’s work has created ripples in the fine art scene, where he is lauded as an exciting new talent. The soft-spoken Louisiana-native channels the grinning enthusiasm of a kid when you engage him on his favourite subject. Despite the fact that his client list reads like a role-call of cool kids and celebs—think Josh Hartnett, Penelope Cruz and the ink-loving Marc Jacobs—Campbell is more interested in talking about his art projects and upcoming visit to the Manufactura Berluti in Ferrara, Italy, where he will be working on a special project to redo the tattoo books and learn from Elena Lodi, Berluti’s head of Finishings and Decoration.
For those still wondering where this too-cool-for-school tattoo artist fits in with a 120-year-old Parisian label known for their handcrafted men’s shoes and luxurious RTW, you’re missing the point. Berluti’s forte is their expertise in leather, and they have painstakingly hand-tattooed specially commissioned designs onto their client’s Venezia leather shoes for the past 15 years. “I’ve known Berluti for a long time,” says Campbell. “I’ve done experiments with tattooing on leather in my own studio and figured how to make that work technically. Berluti has always been… when you look at their tattoos, ah man, they have it, like, figured out. They’re the ones who figured out a way to do tattoo on leather.”
CAMPBELL'S HAND IN THE COLLECTION CAN BE SEEN IN THE LINEWORK PATTERNS THAT TRAIL ACROSS JACKETS, SHOES AND BAGS, EVEN ACROSS THE SKIN AND THE FACES OF SOME OF THE MODELS.
Campbell’s hand in the collection can be seen in the linework patterns that trail across jackets, shoes and bags, even across the skin and the faces of some of the models. From radial abstract patterns to architectural elements, one favoured motif that is decidedly present is a reticulated snake pattern. It adorns the black leather Alessandro lace-ups—a sinuous coil of coppery stitches across skin, it is a pattern that’s mirrored on the back of the model’s bomber jacket.
When asked about the creature’s significance, Campbell pauses, reluctant at first to elucidate, but after a little cajoling (“You know, it’s all kind of personal, so I don’t know how intimate you want to go, but… the short version is I get really nasal and teary-eyed over it”), goes on to explain what the “ghost snake” represents to him. It is a “creative scapegoat” that allows him the freedom to pursue the creative without the burden of recrimination or pressure to meet expectations. “If I have any good ideas, it comes from that… Bad ones come from that too, so now I have the ability to just be free, and don’t think about it… It’s hard when you’re responsible… It’s really dangerous to give artists credit for what they do. I think pride can be really dangerous, and criticism also.” He goes on after a short pause, “It can corrupt your inspiration. So yeah, I do these ‘ghost snakes’, as a reminder to myself that [my creativity stems] from somewhere else, and that I just show up and do my thing. I just move the pencil.”
You mean it’s almost ritualistic, in that sense?
“Yeah, totally… um… so yeah, I don’t know if you wanted all that…,” he says with a sheepish grin.
Campbell is refreshingly forthright and real. He genuinely loves what he does, and it shows. Berluti’s AW16 collection is a series of savvy, well-executed looks with incredible detailing, the kind of luxurious little considerations that have come to define Sartori’s collections for the brand. The introduction of Campbell’s tattoo-work, translated onto Sartori’s pristine canvas, helps anoint it with just the right amount of badassery. Berluti has been refining their approach and expanding rapidly in the past few years. They have targeted a new, younger stratum of men, who are both connoisseurs and collectors, who can appreciate the heritage of bespoke workmanship just as easily as they would the contemporary works of a cutting-edge underground artist. Which is why Berluti has also invited the artist to their private finishings atelier to curate and rework the brand’s bespoke tattoo catalogue.
GETTING TATTOOED IS A WAY OF SAYING THAT FOR ALL OF LIFE'S INFLUENCES, FOR ALL THE THINGS THAT WE DON'T HAVE CONTROL OVER, I CAN GET THIS TATTOO, AND IT WILL, IN ONE SMALL SYMBOLIC WAY, CHANGE WHO I AM FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.
Esquire Singapore was there last summer to witness first-hand the alchemical processes still being used to treat and finish the leather, alongside modern techniques. We also saw their handwritten “recipe” books, used to note down the mix of dyes needed to achieve a particular effect, a tome’s worth of valuable information. Campbell is equally reverential when it comes to his dyes. “I’m excited because I make all my pigments from food colouring. When there were no good tattoo pigments, I would order different food colouring, and with vodka, make all of my pigments like that. It was really like what the old tattoo artists would do. I think icing pigment is the best glue you can find… There are companies now that make special inks, but I don’t trust them. Most of what I do is black and white, but I have to make it myself,” he states. It is a partnership that makes sense on many levels, though one can’t help but wonder who might stand to benefit more, and if Berluti will be sharing all its secrets gleaned from over a century of working with leather.
Still, Campbell’s open, enthusiastic manner makes him an easy person to like. And when it’s suggested that a suit’s propriety may tame a tattoo’s rebellious connotations, he pauses to consider this for a while before replying: “I think it’s less about rebellion and more about people taking control of their destiny. Getting tattooed is a way of saying that for all of life’s influences, for all the things that we don’t have control over, I can get this tattoo, and it will, in one small symbolic way, change who I am for the rest of my life.” He smiles and looks down at the shoes on his feet, a pair of Berluti’s iconic Alessandro shoes in whole-cut Venezia leather, onto which one of his designs has been carefully embossed by the team from the atelier. “I don’t think it is rebellion,” he continues. “It’s just a matter of choosing what you want your identity to be, and then claiming it.”
From: Esquire Singapore's April 2016 issue.