Volume 76, Number 9 | July 19 - 25, 2006

In the Meat Market

A special Villager supplement.

Villager photos by Talisman Brolin

A break-dancer performing at the new Ed Hardy store.

New location fits tattoo clothing boutique to a T

By Janet Kwon

Entering the new Ed Hardy store on W. 13th St. is not like walking into your average T-shirt shop. Customers are cloaked in bright multicolored lights streaming down from tall, boxy light trees — a virtual red-carpet experience lifted directly from the pages of a glamorous Hollywood premiere. It doesn’t stop there.

Just beyond the entrance, the entire left side of a short corridor that leads to the main body of the store is covered with framed photographs of celebrity household names — from Madonna to Heather Locklear — all donning Don Ed Hardy inspired garb.

Known as simply “Ed Hardy” to tattoo enthusiasts nationwide, Hardy is credited with mastering a style of tattoo art that introduced a deeper breadth of color and imagery. His signature, and copyrighted, tattoo designs, such as the koi fish and the devil with a pitchfork, used to be only available as body art. However, in December 2004, designer Christian Audigier bought the rights to Hardy’s designs and put a new spin on them — spinning the body art to wearable art in the form of clothing.

“We started out as a small hat boutique, but now, the expectations are endless,” Raelyn Hennessee, East Coast general manager of the Ed Hardy stores, said of the rapidly expanding business.

Since the first shop opened on Melrose St. in Los Angeles in 2004, Ed Hardy stores have been popping up worldwide — in Asia and Europe — with the number of distributors in the thousands, Hennessee said. Among all these stores, the L.A. flagship store hits the highest sales mark.

“L.A. is so laidback, and it’s a T-shirt-and-jeans kind of vibe all over. It’s the basic scene there; it’s very relaxed,” Hennessee said, adding that the popularity of the new location in the Meatpacking District, only the second Ed Hardy store in the U.S., is quickly catching up.

“New York is starting to get tired of the black suits and the ties — they’re ready for a change,” she said.

Hennessee compared Ed Hardy to a fellow Meatpacking District designer Alexander McQueen, whose flagship store is at 417 W. 14th St.

“It’s a different vibe, but at the same price point. You feel comfortable spending $140 on a shirt because you’re comfortable buying it…but you’re still wearing couture,” Hennessee said.

In addition to McQueen, the Meatpacking District is filled to the brim with high-fashion names, such as Stella McCartney and Diane von Furstenberg. How will Ed Hardy handle the competition?

A D.J. — wearing an Ed Hardy tattoo shirt and hat — spun tunes for the shoppers’ pleasure.

“I don’t see anybody as our competition; we’re the one and only. There’s really nothing like us in the Market — period,” Hennessee said. The designs may be unique but the prices go neck to neck with the “mainstream” couture, with hoodies and jackets going for as much as $500 and T-shirts ranging from $60 to $140. The store also sells sneakers and trucker caps, all adorned with Hardy’s artwork.

Hennessee remarked that she is seeking the necessary permits to be able to give actual Ed Hardy-inspired tattoos in the shop alongside the clothing, although the draw of the wearable “painless art” will still be the main attraction.

Also in the works is a possible second New York Ed Hardy location in the Upper East Side as well as another one in Miami. As for their Meat Market store, it has already garnered some celebrity attention, with high-profile shoppers such as comedian Chris Rock and hip-hop artist Missy Elliot.

A grand opening party will be held at the store at 425 W.13th St. — located next to Hogs and Heifers bar — on Thurs. July 20, with music and complimentary champagne from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The festivities will continue from 11 p.m. at AER nightclub at 409 W.13th St. with an after party and a fashion show — featuring the latest Ed Hardy lines for men, women and children.

As for the dress code for this trendy soiree?

“Wear a suit — and wear your Ed Hardy shirt underneath it,” Hennessee joked.

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