Man who tattooed Drake, David Beckham and Miley Cyrus in Hong Kong for pop-up tattoo parlour

Brian Woo is back in Hong Kong for a pop-up at I.T in Causeway Bay together with local and South Korean artists. He talks about growing up a ‘snotty-nosed little kid’ in LA and why you shouldn’t believe how long his waiting list is

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 March, 2018, 2:20pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 March, 2018, 7:55pm

Los Angeles-based tattoo artist Brian Woo, aka Dr Woo, has lost count of how many times he’s been inked.

“It’s pretty much just one big tattoo from my neck down to my toes,” he says. “And you can drop the Brian and the Dr. My friends just call me Woo. Easy.”

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Woo is back in Hong Kong for a collaboration with multi-brand fashion house I.T, after previously visiting in 2016 for a pop-up with Landmark Men.

We’re at the I.T flagship store in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay. Woo is pumped as we settle into a small room with blinded windows covered in his designs. There’s also a tattoo chair where Woo and several other tattooists – a mix of local and South Korean artists – will be inking lucky clients until April 2.

It is lucky because Woo is one of the most in-demand tattoo artists in the world and has a long waiting list – although not as long as the media will have you believe.

“I think people made up their own myth about the waiting list,” says Woo, referring to stories that clients have to wait a year. “I’m not going to lie – it’s tough to get in, but I travel a lot and when I do something like this well, yeah, I’m in demand but I can’t say that the wait is a year. I mean, who knows where I will be in a year? I don’t even know where I’ll be in six months.”

Woo is refreshingly unpretentious for someone who has inked so much famous skin, with clients including G-Dragon, David Beckham, Miley Cyrus, Drake, Shawn Yue, Cara Delevingne and Chiara Ferragni. But don’t ask who he will be inking while he’s in Hong Kong – or how much he charges. He is a true pro and won’t share confidential information.

“I keep clients’ wishes secret – that's what I’ve learned from my boss. Clients appreciate it, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s a very special private time and I want to respect that.”

Such professionalism has helped him attract more than one million followers on Instagram. His account is bursting with black and white photos that represent not just an impressive portfolio of work but a snapshot of his lifestyle and family life (he has two boys).

A post shared by Doctor Woo (@_dr_woo_) on Nov 26, 2017 at 3:26pm PST

He says that as a child growing up in LA, he was always rebelling against his Taiwanese immigrant parents.

“I was a snotty-nosed little kid when I started with the guys at Shamrock,” says Woo, referring to the high-profile Shamrock Social Club tattoo shop on LA’s Sunset Strip where he worked for almost a decade. “I worked up from the bottom.”

Rebellious acts as a teenager included inking his own arms with his friends. He was also an obsessive doodler – “my textbooks were covered in them” – a habit he says he still can’t break as he points to a limited edition Céline bag on the tattoo chair, which has been decorated with a goofy-eyed spider hanging from a long thread. “I even put a tattoo on this Céline bag. I just wanted to put my mark on this, to personalise it. My wife thinks I’m crazy.”

A post shared by Doctor Woo (@_dr_woo_) on Feb 4, 2018 at 1:27pm PST

These tiny designs, like many he has left around the I.T store, scream his signature minimalist style that boasts sleek geometric structures, fine lines and lots of details.

“I use a single needle. It’s a finer style that lends itself more to a sketch and more intricate design style. It’s fun for me. It’s my style, but single needles are not news – it’s been around for a long time. I just adapted it to my style, design wise.”

A post shared by Doctor Woo (@_dr_woo_) on Mar 6, 2018 at 3:20pm PST

Other ink masters at the I.T pop-up include Hongkonger Yeeki Lo (April 1 and 2), a professional tattooist since 2013 who has carved a reputation for her geometric shapes and tribal patterns comprising black dots and lines.

Fellow Hongkongers Mirmanda Cheung (March 21 and 22), who turned down a job in advertising to become a full-time tattooist, and Tina Choi (March 23 to 25), known for her minimalist plant and watercolour patterns, are also available for appointments.

South Korean tattooists Doy (March 16-20) and Hongdam (March 27-31) are also available.

Interested parties can register here until April 2, with limited quotas assigned on a first-come-first-served basis.

I.T Tattoo Atelier Pop-up Tattoo Studio, shop B2, 1 Hysan Avenue, Causeway Bay, tel: 2890 7329. Until April 2