The Bowery is New York City’s oldest street, and through the years it’s had an unmatched level of reinvention, creativity, and artistry. These three elements are fused together and fully realized at LINES, a new atelier on Bowery that opened over the summer. Though it’s at it’s core a tattoo studio, at any given moment, you’ll find items from “ten to fifteen designers” in the store, live events from after hours raves to figure drawing classes, sample sales, photography exhibitions and much more happening in their multifunctional space. It’s difficult to pin down what exactly makes LINES so uniquely one-of-a-kind, but as you walk down the street, see their ever-changing store windows, and step in, it’s immediately clear that it’s a special place. LINES has many identities that are seamlessly interconnected – tattoo studio, fashion, art, wellness, events, and much more – that all have a home here, driven by the unparalleled vision of creators Crystal Pfeifer and Jiwon Ra.
Jiwon recalls when Crystal first approached her about creating the tattoo shop that would become LINES, “I was like what are you talking about? I don’t even have any tattoos. But I’ve really come to believe her vision that tattooing is the highest form of fashion design.” With Crystal leading the wellness services and tattooing and Jiwon behind the fashion, events, and artisans, the two are bringing their experiences and expertise to life. This dynamic duo have backgrounds as unique and varied as the store itself. Crystal is a fashion industry veteran, with decades of experience for brands including Adidas, Ed Hardy, DKNY and more. She spent more than a decade in China working in retail development. As COVID shut the world down, she decided to pursue a long held interest, and delved into the art of tattooing which took her to Thailand and beyond. Jiwon has a design background and is likewise a fashion industry alum having worked for, Oscar De La Renta, DKNY, LAPOINTE and Derek Lam, and most recently for Calvin Klein She has won awards for her fashion design and retail curation workand is also a model with extensive expertise in skincare.
Crystal recalls that from the get go, the two had a natural jive together. “Jiwon and I are an excellent representation of positive and healthy mentorship and artistry. We started working together when Jiwon was very young, still in college, and she was an intern. In my own practice, I don’t treat interns as interns, but focus on teachability. When I met Jiwon, I saw a very teachable, eager young person.” After several years spent working together and collaborating with one another on everything from small projects to Pandemic era fashion shows in Kentucky, Crystal and Jiwon came together to bring this unique venture to life.
The vision behind LINES is that the state of tattooing is, essentially, broken for most people and for the planet. “You have fast fashion, slow fashion, and tattooing, which is permanent fashion,” states Jiwon. The idea that tattooing is fundamentally part of fashion is a key part of LINES. Crystal notes however that “tattoo shops are very narrow if you look at them like fashion. They generally look, sound, and smell the same, but there could be million perspectives on what a tattoo shop could look like, because there’s a million perspectives on what fashion looks like.” They’ve created a tattoo shop that eschews the typical tattoo experience in favor of one that offers a full shopping experience and is attending to the needs of first time clients, women, and the LGBTQIA+ community.
This doesn’t just mean creating a more inviting, welcoming space for these communities, but also an emphasis on ensuring the tattoo process itself is better and more thoughtful. “A lot of people who’ve never gotten a tattoo before walk in a little scared, a little timid, and we want to break that down. Our doors are open, our artists are friendly, and we are all here to inform people about tattooing.” LINES also has a policy of never refusing first time client’s who are looking for “that small meaningful tattoo that many studios would never do.” Little things like verbally guiding clients through the process, trauma-informed methods, and a strong emphasis on wellness and aftercare create and environment that’s a far cry from the typical experience. Crystal and Jiwon are actually the first women in the tattoo aftercare space, and are working with Pure Mana, a female owned farm based in Hawaii to create an exclusive tattoo aftercare product.
If you’ve never gotten a tattoo, it can take multiple sessions and many hours to finish the design, and you’re likely coming back again and again to get more pieces done. Throw in the fact that many people, especially women, tend to bring friends along for a tattoo, and LINES means there’s something for everyone in your party to do. When you come back for a session and a yoga class, have your friend enjoy a traditional tea ceremony while you get your ink, and you’ll see why this community driven space is unlike any other tattoo shop you’ve been to. “We really set out to create something that isn’t just come in, get your rock and roll tattoo, and leave a little unsure.” elaborates Crystal.
Additionally, tattooing and fashion alike have struggled to adopt sustainable practices that are scalable for the long term. Jiwon notes they “only invest in sustainable, medical grade, biodegradable and compostable supplies for tattooing, and all of our artists in the studio are environmentally sustainable whether they’re upcycling or have environmental certifications. Events like sample sales give dead stock that would otherwise go to a landfill a second life and second chance of being sold.” Moreover, the art classes and workshops taught by Crystal and Jiwon, like how you can turn a vintage 3 XL hoodie into a dress, breathe new into the old in a sustainable way. LINES is also working to elevate sustainable brands, and is the only place you can buy Freja’s vegan leather bags.
It’s the growing and supportive community of artisans and creatives, clients and shoppers that make LINES a sustainable business. With Crystal and Jiwon’s focus on uplifting emerging women, minority, and LGBTQIA+ brands, there’s a very real sense of camaraderie and collaboration in their atelier. Many of the first artisans in LINES are from Crystal and Jiwon’s personal networks, and there’s a delightful feeling that everybody here is either a friend or fast becoming one. “Everybody who comes in comments on the amazing energy happening in this space.” It’s the kind of increasingly rare Downtown chic that welcomes anybody who walks in the door, with something intriguing to interest them, and is always adapting and metamorphosizing into something far more magical.
In many ways, LINES is embodying the ethos and community of the neighborhood, from the DIY ethos of CBGB, to the creative edge of fashion legend Patricia Fields, whose namesake store once called this very space home and threw legendary parties in the basement. “It’s very serendipitous we found this place, we never set out to rent the House of Patricia Fields, but when we saw the space we both just kind of fell in love,” says Crystal. With a little bit of fashion, design, art, and a breath of creativity, Crystal and Jiwon have created something that’s truly themselves.
As LINES comes online, they’ve both been blown away by the support of the neighborhood and community. Whether it’s getting an energy boost at Cha Cha Matcha in the morning, running across the street to Ixta for a quick bite, or chatting with the owner of the restaurant supply store next door, they’ve found a warm reception from neighbors. “People come in all the time excited just to see who we are, and it’s such an honor to be so welcomed by the community.” One thing’s for sure, the next time that neighbor comes in, they’re bound to see something different emerging out of this little corner of the Bowery.