"When you think of tattoos, you think of a sailor off stranded someplace, wouldn't you say? This is a completely different concept," Jeffie Pike said from the garden of her Hancock Park home.
So what's this lady from Hancock Park doing talking about tattoos?
Pike is in the business of manufacturing colorful designs that are transferred onto the skin. They look like, but aren't, tattoos. Are they decals? No, Pike hesitates to call them that. She prefers J'Attoo, a name she coined for her paisley, floral, abstract and geometric patterns.
New Fashion Form
Pike says she set out to create a completely new "form of fashion," so she hired five designers, including makeup artist Jeff Angell, whose face-and-body painting had inspired her, to come up with "chic" looks that could be lifted from paper and applied to the body with a wet sponge.
Glancing off in the direction of the Wilshire Country Club, Pike explains why a tanned, blue-eyed, fourth-generation Californian wanted to create washable tattoos. "First of all," she says, "it's affordable opulence. For $3.50, you can buy a little jewel, wear it once and throw it away. I wore a real pearl dog collar with a J'Attoo jewel to the Academy Awards. I think they're bikini to black tie. I've worn them with T-shirts, jeans, anything."
On this particular day, in her white blouse and Krizia culottes, Pike, a mother of two who once set out to become a museum curator but wound up teaching courses at Harvard Business School, co-producing a movie and volunteering at the Music Center and UCLA Art Council, is J'Attoo-d in three places. There are daisies on one ankle, geometrics on another, and at her neck is a turquoise and metallic-gold Maltese cross.
It's a little difficult to make the connection, but Pike says the Maltese cross is an hommage to Coco Chanel, who often wore Maltese crosses around her neck and included them in her collections of costume jewelry. Chanel also happened to be a great friend of Pike's mother, Marion, a portrait painter living in Paris. The late designer was also godmother to Pike's son, John.
Chanel as Godmother
"Maybe Chanel is godmother to the project," she suggests. "She was the first one to get a suntan and the first one to use skin as a fashion accessory. We call these skin jewels."
In the fall, Pike says she will add a "Chanel bow" to the line, as well as Hermes-inspired chain looks, zippers and lace.
Asked if Chanel would approve of her idea, Pike replies confidently: "She had a great sense of humor, and I think she'd laugh and think they were just great."
J'Attoos are available at Judy's and Fred Segal stores.