Mo Coppoletta is the founder of The Family Business, a tattoo parlour on Exmouth Market in London. Mo sat down with London Sock Company to discuss his history of tattooing, what inspires his style and his favourite forms of art…
How did The Family Business begin?
I became interested in tattooing 25 years ago. I was a big fan of it before starting myself. I was obsessed with it, and I wanted to be as knowledgeable as I could. After a few months, I landed a couple of jobs at some of the best shops in London, and in 2003 I opened The Family Business.
What made you so passionate about the art of tattooing?
It is a cool thing to do, and cool people have tattoos. It’s not that profound! It is an art form that is different from all the others, and as you dig into it, you learn more about what went into the development of tattooing and what it is today. It has become an incredibly skilled and refined art form.
Do you have any memorable clients? Does every tattoo have a distinct meaning to each of them?
They are all cool! The idea of every tattoo having a meaning for the wearer is a false myth. Someone might want to adorn their body without thinking too much. It could be just because they fancy it or they like it. Back in the day, if someone had a full sleeve or a back tattoo, it is because they liked it, it wasn’t a particular rite of passage.
Of course, you choose something that you like, something that relates to you, but in the same way that you would choose clothing and cars that relate to you. When I started, not necessarily everyone was getting tattoos with a deep meaning. It’s as simple as that and I think that is more than enough. You become a collector of tattoos. You develop it, you research what you like and then you end up covered in tattoos. It’s not that your body is your diary, some people just like to have a beautiful black rose tattoo.
You have branched out, working in fashion, with fabric and watches. Is there a connection between these disciplines?
It was a natural transition for me as I was involved in many other industries. I was asked for some aesthetic advice, and then it just happened. I managed to create a parallel career of designing for brands with different products, which is very exciting. I like to keep the two working together, and it’s the best. With products, you are not restricted by the boundaries that skin gives you. You are free to explore different avenues, as having a 3D product is different from a flat drawing. However, I apply the same taste. You can tell – even though the products are different – that it’s mine.
Drawing for products or things influences how I tattoo and tattooing influences how I draw. And from a creativity point of view, it’s very enriching.
What inspires you?
So many things! Ever since I started, all the decorative arts inspire me, all the movements. From the Renaissance period to 19th Century or 20th Century. It could be anything that has one common denominator: a highly decorative aspect to them. I’m inspired by that have beauty, harmony and lines. Those are things that are the most attractive to me. No to minimalism! It’s not for me.
How has your style been affected by your job?
Everyone says I don’t look like a traditional tattooist. Style is a journey. The way you look and carry yourself is a journey. I don’t think my job dictates the way I look or behave.
There are parallels. The common thing is that someone’s sensibility is affected by arts, and things they like. Your style is the way you express yourself externally, and if you feed that with the desire to know more about crafts, clothes and accessories, you can then dress it all up together.
The modern world tends to agree that if you have a bit of money, you can buy what you think is trendy, but it requires a lot of study, information and culture to develop your style, whether you’re naturally drawn to it or not. You need to feed your style, you need to be inclined to it, and then you need to train it.
Putting on a great pair of socks in the morning, it can transform how you look, but even your state of mind…
The socks should give you the energy to match a pair of shoes, jacket, coat and suitable headwear and everything that goes with it.
There are always pieces in a wardrobe that you like more than others. There are always your favourite things. You can have thousands of scarves and handkerchiefs in a drawer but you always go and pick out the same ones. There are some items that you wear more willingly because you feel good in them. I have a few things that I prefer more, I’m very keen on jackets. I think jackets are the king of a man’s wardrobe. You can cheap on anything but you can’t cheap on the jacket. Shirts and shoes need to be good, but the jacket needs to be good, an ill-fitting jacket is bad.
What does the future hold for you?
I would love to design a sock pattern!