Serene, stylish and welcoming might not be the first words to describe entering into a tattoo parlor, but Ephemeral Tattoo is here to change that.
What is Ephemeral? Ephemeral Tattoo is evolving the tattoo industry with the first-ever made-to-fade tattoo ink. Ephemeral Tattoo was founded by five New York University friends who were always intrigued by tattoos, but grew up in households where they were taboo. Made-to-fade ink takes away the pressure of a lifetime commitment and allows a broader range of individuals to explore the option of tattoos.
“We wanted to create an experience and technology that from the onset unlocks people’s creativity and gives them the freedom to express themselves without the commitment,” says co-founder Josh Sakhai.
The Brooklyn-based tattoo studio officially opened its doors after six years of research and testing to create a safe ink with FDA-approved, medical-grade, bioabsorbable and biocompatible polymer materials that are proven to fade over the course of one year. The ink was created in collaboration with a team of chemical engineers and contains pigments found in foods, cosmetics and other products. They’re administered by traditional tattoo artists using the same tattoo gun, only with Ephemeral’s made-to-fade ink. Leading Manhattan dermatologist and skin care entrepreneur Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, who has worked with Martha Stewart and Yankees players, was also involved to ensure the safety and efficacy of the ink.
It’s not just Ephemeral’s innovative tattoo technology that’s game-changing, but also the design of their brick-and-mortar studio that aims to be inclusive for all clients both before, during and after their sessions. While the Ephemeral team has a deep respect for the tattoo community, they understand that traditional tattoo parlors can be intimidating.
“The stereotype of a tattoo studio is very masculine, dark and sometimes not exceptionally inviting,” says Ephemeral Tattoo CEO, Jeff Liu, who was formerly with Tesla and Casper. “We saw that as an opportunity to reinvent and innovate. We understand coming into a studio is a very vulnerable moment for any client because you’re letting a stranger put a needle in your skin, so we thought a lot about the music, the lighting and color.”
The studio was designed by small design firm All Day Breakfast, founded by Pete Trentacoste, who approached the design from a customer’s emotional journey when getting a tattoo.
“We really wanted to think about our customers who are getting a tattoo for the first time, which is an anxiety-inducing experience,” Trentacoste says. “How could we create something that felt calm, familiar and might take the edge off? We wanted to pay homage to what came before us, as we have a deep respect for the tattoo community. There is this industrial roughness to the space through the use of stainless steel and metals, but then wanted to soften it up quite a bit.”
Upon walking into the studio, it feels minimalist, yet warm and even somewhat residential via the contemporary furniture choices. The entrance features exposed partitions made of natural wood, plants, a refrigerator of colorful drinks and contemporary light fixtures. Pops of color like soft pinks, blues and ivories infuse a sense of calm into the space.
“We added translucent curtains in soft, light colors,” Trentacoste says. “There are concrete floors, which we balanced with natural woods. We wanted to create a homey vibe where you walk in and it felt familiar and not have it be too noisy. However, we didn’t want it to be a polished, brand-new space; we wanted to feel authentic.”
Unlike many traditional tattoo parlors, Ephemeral has private rooms that are divided by a translucent curtain to give both the artist and the client privacy. Each room includes a massage table for clients to sit down when receiving their tattoos and the tattoo artist’s materials, so clients aren’t out in the open getting their tattoos.
“Each room has its own unique color, which is super monochromatic, and we wanted to create ‘zone-out’ moments for our clients by adding moving sand art, and we have sand art that fades over the hour,” he says. “We also have kinetic sculptures that are constantly in motion and are very soothing, and then I worked with a woman out of California who does tabletop water fountains so you hear and see the water that might make clients calm down.”
Trentacoste wanted the place to feel like authentic Brooklyn and support small local businesses. He sourced all of the furniture from local vendors in Brooklyn; sourced the plants from a shop in Greenpoint; and hired Brooklyn Fabrication for all of the millwork.
Despite the complete departure from the look and feel of a traditional tattoo parlor, it’s obvious that without permanent tattoos, Ephemeral wouldn’t exist. Liu and Sakhai and the Ephemeral team have a deep respect for the tattoo community. Liu says these two worlds collide by the contrast of the design, like the powder-coated metal cages that honor the edge of the traditional nature of tattoos augmented by sheer curtains with a light color palette. Everything feels meaningful, even down to the company’s four different logos.
“If you go to our website today and refresh your screen, you’ll see four different logos every single time you enter,” Liu says. “The reason why we wanted to have a multi-logo treatment was because we recognized that there are a potential bevy of tensions and contradictions that Ephemeral has. On one end of the spectrum, we understand that there is traditional tattoo culture that is deeply important to us. We understand that that is largely the origin of our opportunity. On the other end of the spectrum is something that’s playful, something that’s a little more accessible and one that’s a little bit less serious. Then you blend in the science and the proprietary technology, something that can be somewhat clinical. Then on top of that, we have something that’s premium and something that feels like an elevated experience. You see this in our marketing, our brand identity and it translates into the space itself.”
Inclusivity is the number-one value of Ephemeral and their goal is to expand to as many tattoo wearers as possible, whether that’s through the no-commitment ink or by the innovative experience they’ve created.