British tattoo artist Saira Hunjan is no stranger to stepping out of her comfort zone. Although famed for inking celebrity skins (Kate Moss and Sadie Frost are clients) more recent years have seen Hunjan applying her artistry to everything from shorts to hipflasks for collaborations with the likes of Orlebar Brown and Ettinger.
‘When I was fourteen, I made the decision that I wanted to be a tattooist,’ recalls Hunjan. ‘This was also when I discovered Jean Paul Gaultier's tattooed clothing and instantly fell in love with his work. He has always been a big inspiration of mine. So being involved in the fashion industry has always been something I wanted to pursue. It's another way for people to wear and celebrate my art, which I think is really special.’
Furthering her foray into the world of fashion this autumn, today Hunjan will unveil the fruits of a new collaboration, this time with luxury leather brand Tod’s. Using the Italian brand’s Double T messenger bags as her canvas, Hunjan has created a set of 5 unique artworks that pay homage to the label’s rich heritage.
‘The idea was for me to create something romantic while encompassing something strong and powerful,’ says Hunjan of her symbolic design; a mythical beast with a lion’s head (a symbol of Tod’s) and the body of a dragon, clutches at a heart with his paws while piercing it with his dragon’s tail. ‘There is a sense of narrative on each bag. They are all compositionally different, but keep the mythical lion’s image alive.’
The collaboration, which will be unveiled tomorrow at Tod’s newly expanded and refurbished London Flagship, was the brainchild of Tod’s enigmatic founder, Mr Della Valle, who sees the tattoo project as a continuation of the brand’s mission to combine contemporary culture with the high standard of traditional craftsmanship upon which the Tod’s name has been built.
‘I treated the bag in the same way I would tattoo a body,’ says Hunjan of the design process. ‘It's important for me to work with the whole space and determine how the design would fit best when viewed from different angles.’
Working with the craftsmen at Tod’s factory in Brancadoro, Hunjan set about searching for the perfect canvas. ‘I tried a number of different skins including precious skins like alligator and crocodile. Some would not even absorb the ink, some the needle would not even penetrate. Once we found the calfskin leather in the Tod’s signature Vacchetta colour way, we were very happy with the look I was able to create on it.’
Following the unveiling of the five tattooed bags, a limited edition of ‘tattoo-inspired’ bags and wallets featuring laser prints of the Hunjan’s drawings will be available in the Tod’s flagship boutique in London and at selected other boutiques around the world and online in November/December. ‘I like meeting and working with other creatives,’ says Hunjan, hinting that this is not the last time we’ll see her artworks on the catwalk. ‘It gives me fuel to work harder, develop my ideas further and create new ones.’