Meet Ran: The Vegan Tattoo Artist Behind Our T-Shirt 'Frenchie'

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 Nicole Lutze, talks to Ran MacLurkin about his design for Etiko’s latest T-shirt.

Etiko is all about ethics, and we are committed to not only minimising our impact on the planet and its people, but also supporting like-minded not-for-profits and creatives. That’s why Etiko’s Thongs for Change program exists, and how our latest T-shirt, Frenchie, came to be.

Describe yourself.

I’m a tattooist in Melbourne. Physically, I’ve got a lot of tattoos! I feel more comfortable with ink on my skin, so I’m kind of wacky-looking I guess. I’ve been a tattooist for 14 years now, but also dabble in other creative fields like film and music. I love racing cars and I’m vegan, which is pretty rare in the racing world.

How did you get into tattooing?

My best mate was a tattooist and I’ve always been into drawing. Compared to traditional tattooing, my work is pretty crazy and weird. And back then, not many people in Australia were doing that kind of drawing, so my mate encouraged me to try tattooing. 


When and why did you become vegan?

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for years. I used to get sick a lot, and around that time we got a German Shepherd. One day I was sick at home with my dog, watching a show about why we eat meat, and I was looking at my dog and thinking: I wouldn’t want to eat my dog. And that’s when I decided I had to suck it up and make the change. I’ve had a few little bumps along the way, but you just have to get back up and keep going.

Eating meat feels wrong to me now. It’s horrific what we’re doing: the amount of meat we are eating, how animals are treated and how it impacts the planet. I didn’t become vegan to be healthy, but that has been a bonus. I’m much healthier these days, I don’t get sick all the time, and my cholesterol is better.

How does being vegan impact your work as a tattooist?

Most of the good quality inks are free of animal products, but I ensure all the inks I use are vegan. I’ve also switched to vegan-friendly brands of coconut butter to use instead of Vaseline. As far as I know, Vaseline tests on animals and other petroleum-based jellies aren’t considered ethical so I don’t use them.

The studio I work in has also stopped using razors with lubricating strips that contain lanolin, and we are considering how to minimise our use of paper towel and plastic ink caps. Thankfully you can now get biodegradable cups which we use for our inks. Most of the people I work with are very environmentally conscious and making changes.

How did you discover Etiko?

I met Etiko’s founder and director, Nick Savaidis, at an eco-festival. It’s actually only recently that I’ve learned more about the impact of fashion. I knew we weren’t doing very nice things to people in other countries. I’d heard of slave labour and about horrible conditions in other countries for garment makers, but I hadn’t looked into it much. I also only recently learned about the impact of different textiles on the planet.

Overall, I’m trying to be less demanding on the world around me, even though I race cars, which is a bit of a contradiction I know. As I learn more, I’m trying to change my ways, including with fashion.

I think we all need to change, but we’re wilfully ignorant. For some of us, not all of us on the planet, but for some, we have very comfortable lives and we forget that a lot of the world is in a horrible way. They don’t have fantastic lives and it’s quite often because of what we do. We might not realise it, but our decisions can cause harm to their lives.

Tell us about the inspiration for your T-shirt design.

Frenchie’s are a popular dog amongst tattooists, and I’ve chosen to put traditional style tattoos on a French bulldog to make that connection. I’ve kept the design traditional, and it’s a bit of a nod to Mike Giant, an American tattooist who is famous for illustrated versions of Latino girls with his style of art tattooed on them. He uses high-contrast black and white, so I’ve been inspired by that while trying to create something unique.

Anything else you want people to know about you or the vegan lifestyle?

You can change. A lot of people think you can’t change, but you can. I didn’t move across to making these changes well into my 40’s, and you can look back and wish you had made it earlier, but it’s never too late. You get older and more set in your ways, but you should still be open to change and do things that are good for you, animals and the planet.

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