The Hardy Boy
September 30, 2009

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I was styling a fashion shoot yesterday in a photographer’s backyard in Venice when somebody happened to mention those two little words – “Ed Hardy.”  Suddenly there was a lot of hissing on that particular summer lawn. The healthy disdain of the cool kids didn’t refer to the person Ed Hardy but rather a glitzy and gaudy line of clothes – I feel bad calling them clothes, OK? – that bears the name of a once-revered tattoo artist (a lot about tattoos this week, right?) No, when people out here say Ed Hardy, they really are referring to Christian Audigier, the glitzy and gaudy designer/entrepreneur behind the line – our own little Count of Three-Card-Monte Crystal.

Audigier first made his dubious mark on fashion earlier in this decade by putting seemingly every straight guy looking to get laid in a Von Dutch trucker hat.  And, along the way, a truck-full of celebrities too, in those crazy Justin and Brittany salad days. In fact, he cheerfully takes credit for inventing celebrity marketing and just about everything else that’s happened since, in a devastatingly detailed profile in this month’s GQ that’s worth the price of the entire issue.

Jon Gosselin

When it came time to re-up, Audigier and the Von Dutch owners had a spat about putting his name on the label too, so off he went and either seduced or swindled Mr. Hardy (there was a lawsuit later) and now Ed Hardy by Christian Audigier is known across the land. His gold-foiled and rhinestone bedecked T-shirts covered in snake-and-skull-and-bleeding-heart tattoo motifs reached critical media mass this summer – for several tabloid weeks running – as the preferred apparel choice of one Jon Gosselin, the runaway “Plus 8” TV dad.

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Then came Michael Jackson’s untimely demise but never more than too timely for Audigier. I was driving home then, past his little cluster of boutiquelets on Melrose and BAM!, on the eerie electronic billboard looming large over the stores, was a gigantic and glowing image of Mssrs. Jackson and Audigier. TOGETHER. I wasn’t sure if it was real or photoshopped (Audigier is so fake-baked that he always looks a little retouched), though in fact Jackson did drop by the 50th birthday bash last year of the man who sports a tattoo across his back that reads, “Christian Audigier Est. 1958.”

Real or not, I didn’t know what to think then and I don’t know what to think now. Neither do the retailers who sell his clothes, who seem embarrassed by him, though they happily share in his $80-million T-shirt and accessory biz. Neither did the GQ writer, who didn’t want to believe that bling-y (there, I said it) vision of fashion goes so deep in American culture. But that’s Audigier’s genius. He doesn’t care what we think.

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