From the outside, the offices of skateboard and clothing company Zoo York look like any other dull, gray building in midtown Manhattan. The inside is another story. Up the elevator and through a conference room decorated with skateboard decks, down a hallway lined with clothing racks and a few used and abused skateboards is a stairwell covered top to bottom in graffiti by renowned artists such as SP One, Skuf, Stay High 149, and Cinik. The faint smell of spray paint permeates everything.
It’s a fitting passageway to the upstairs world of Zoo York, a company that shunned the warm California vibes of other skate companies for the tagged-up grit that better represents its East Coast home. In an upstairs conference room, members of the Zoo York design team are discussing tattoos. Specifically, crappy tattoos. “My first was a shitty tribal sun with an eye in the middle,” creative director Kimou Meyer admits.
“Mine is even worse,” says designer Marsha Tam, revealing a half-moon surrounded by stars and clouds that brings a laugh from the room. That isn’t to say that the designers don’t have some amazing ink. “Scott Campbell from Saved Tattoo is finishing my sleeve,” Meyer explains. “It’s the Brooklyn Bridge for my 10 years in New York and has the name of my wife and kid.”
Art director Brian Mackin recently received his first tattoo, the words “Hollowed Be They Name,” by JK5 at Saved Tattoo. “It’s a play on words as a tribute to my grandfather’s last name,” he explains.
Tam is usually tattooed in San Francisco, and designer Brian Woodward is finishing a rib piece featuring flying swallow skeletons. Art director Christian Acker has a recreation of the Rubens painting “The Raising of the Cross” and several tattoos from Matt Greenhalgh of 13 Roses Tattoo in Atlanta.
Greenhalgh is an unofficial member of the Zoo York crew. The tattooer has painted flash for use on shirts and hoodies, and once a year he travels to New York City to set up in the Zoo York offices and give tattoos. “He’s our go-to O.G. tattoo flash guy,” Acker explains, showing off the “Flash Boro” shirt that Greenhalgh recently designed. “He comes here once a year and tattoos every- one. He did my last six or eight tattoos.”
Just because it’s okay to sneak out early for a tattoo appointment or even get tattooed in the office, doesn’t mean that every tattoo on the Zoo York design team is accepted. “I actually hope my mom reads this,” says Woodward. “That way I don’t have to break the news to her that I have tattoos.”