The last time we saw Horiyoshi III he was at King Of Tattoo 2010 in Tokyo on stage with Shige and while both of them are definitely considered masters in their own respective rights, it was only seeing them working side by side that you could see just how different their approaches are.  Not that Horiyoshi III is actually doing that much tattooing these days, settling instead to finish all the bodysuits that he has started over the years – and that is pretty much the nub of the matter, that Horiyoshi III’s work is the whole bodysuit and not reducible to either the sum of its parts or confined to a palm sized piece of artwork.  But all of that has been documented in great length in a great number of books on the great man himself, what I thought I would write about here is his new Horiyoshi the Third clothing line and see how that relates to him as a tattoo artist and if he can manage to escape the inevitable Ed Hardy comparisons.

Continue reading for a look at his work, the clothes and even some jewelry might sneak its way in.

And just in case you are not familiar with his tattooing here are some of his more famous examples:

He embodies traditional tattooing and started out working purely by hand – tebori – before adopting electric machines thanks to the influence of Don Ed Hardy himself.  Subjects are the usual Japanese fare, no gimmicks, just obeying the rules and conventions of Japanese tattooing and taking all those factors to their ultimate conclusion.  In short it is work based on the understanding that the conventions of tattoos exist because that it what makes tattoos look good, and look good forever.

The work should always be thought of as a single piece rather than connected designs.  The body-suit is the tattoo.

Each of these lucky men has invested years and millions of yen into their body – not to mention the pain, but look at those results.

Now with an understanding of that in place lets have a good look at the clothing line started last year.  Despite being stocked in a couple of places in Japan – most notably Beams – the target market is clearly the West which Ed Hardy has proven to be an open goal.  Indeed the company licensed to handle it is Italian, so you can expect some extreme quality in the materials on to which Horiyoshi III’s designs find themselves.

Now the first thing that struck me about the line is how toned down and tasteful it is (compared to Ed Hardy).  Certainly it is great to see Japanese work simplified and blown up into prints and is certainly more wearable than a stunningly detailed Sukajyan.  I think my problem is that brands like Juvenile Delinquent have taken these kinds of Japanese prints to their most garish conclusion and I happen to love it, if anything this might just be too tasteful a use for this kind of imagery!

On the other hand Creep who designs the silver jewelry for the collection has played an absolute blinder:

All in all Horiyoshi III’s venture into the world of clothes has got to be considered a success, albeit a very tasteful one.  I just wonder how closely these designs chime with the fun-loving charismatic artist whose designs they are based on:

Whatever your views the man himself is a legend with his own site and museum which you can check out here.  Such a shame that he is close to calling it a day on the tattooing, but I am looking forward to seeing what he tries his hand at next, especially his continued forays into painting.

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