Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
Brian Woo, known as the tattoo artist Dr. Woo, apprenticed with tattoo legend Mark Mahoney at Shamrock Social Club in Hollywood before opening his own shop, Hideaway at Suite X. Over the years, his ultra-thin lines making up geometric patterns, constellations, nature scenes, and initials have graced celebrity clients like Drake, Rita Ora, Justin, and Hailey Bieber, Harry Styles, and Cara Delevingne.
Recently, in the height of the pandemic, Woo launched a new soap from his forthcoming skincare line with 100 percent of its proceeds going to Baby2Baby. Whitewall spoke with Woo about this latest venture, how he’s breaking down barriers in culture, and why being a father gives him clarity in creativity.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about your creative journey leading up to your work as a tattoo artist today.
BRIAN WOO: My most creative spark starter is from my early teens as a young skateboarder and music fan. I loved making my own t-shirts and graphics, as well as design and painting. My second love as a young fella was getting tattoos. It was a mixture of fascination and angst for me, but the cultural deep dive it has was also an attraction to me as well. Luckily through collecting tattoos, as well as befriending my artists, I was offered an opportunity to learn from the legend Mark Mahoney. The rest is history.
WW: What is your relationship with art and design. Who are some artists you admire?
BW: I love art, all forms, it keeps challenging me and inspiring me on all fronts. To know art existed as a kid led me to see the world very differently.
One of my favorites is my friend Noah Davis—a prolific painter that unfortunately passed away at too young an age. Alexander Calder is a huge influence of mine. Louis Bourgeois, the Bauhaus movement, Mark Bradford, Cy Twombly, Jeanneret, and Prouve… they all inspire me every day.
WW: What was it like to work on the Sacai on its Fall/Winter 2020 collection?
BW: I always love working with the Sacai family, it’s one of my easiest collaborators to work with and they always have such an amazingly creative and clean approach to design. This last collection they asked me to design a bandana in which they could use across their pieces and of course, Chitose [Abe] knocked it out of the park, as usual. Always grateful to be involved with this design house.
WW: You also recently launched the WOO Daily Gentle Soap—a part of your forthcoming skincare line—with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Baby2Baby as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us about that?
BW: I’ve been working really hard the past two years on the Woo skincare line. It was a side project that was a priority for me mixing my love for creative entrepreneurship and branding and also having a long-lasting family name on a useful product for everyone.
We were going to launch this summer, but due to COVID-19, we had to push back our launch. During this time, the team and I decided instead of wasting our soaps we should do what we can to help out the current situation. Since hand washing is so vital now, what better way than to offer clean quality soap products and using the proceeds to help those families that need it most during this pandemic? So happy to see all the support come in. We were able to raise such a great amount of money to give to Baby2Baby. Such a wonderful organization helping kids and families during this challenging time.
WW: How does being a parent impact the way you see the creative world?
BW: I guess the easiest way to explain how I feel about this is before kids I created in a way that had no consequence; no discipline. It was completely free of any rules or barriers. It was a bit of young idealism and naïve confidence.
But now, as a parent, I kind of look at the creative world for me in a way of, “How would this affect them?” or “How would this include them in the bigger picture?” and “How would they view it in the future?” In a way, my creative process is a bit different now—it’s much more clear and direct.
WW: How have you spent your time isolated amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
BW: I’ve spent time with the family mostly, as well as practicing lots and lots of gardening and acquiring rare cacti. I’ve also been painting a lot, too.
WW: How are you staying inspired, hopeful, or active at the moment, in regard to the fight for racial justice?
BW: I truly see it as a right and wrong and you must fight for what’s right. There is no middle ground on this one. Equal human rights shouldn’t be fought for they should already be. Unfortunately, people in our Black communities around the world have had the cards systemically and racially stacked against them and it needs to be fixed now.
I’m trying mostly to help spread info and look at my own life to see what I can change to help, but also leaving the room open for those who have the right and the most powerful voices to speak and lead, so we can all listen and learn and apply that info.