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'Miami Ink' baby clothes

Meet the latest targeted consumers of tattoo art: the pacifier set.

Four artists from the Love Hate Tattoo studio who came to fame through TLC's Miami Ink reality series have launched Ruthless & Toothless, a fashion line for tots.

The Love Hate guys have put fire-breathing dragons and peevish samurais on pint-size garments. But that's where they draw the line: Busty babes have no place on a onesie, they've decided.

''We're kind of making it baby-ish,'' said tattoo master and Ruthless co-owner Chris Garver.


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It's not the most opportune time to start a clothing company, what with retail sales at a, well, crawl.

But if you've ever seen Miami Ink, you know this crew isn't exactly cautious.

''We're launching in the middle of the biggest financial crisis,'' said creative director Casey Cordes, ``and we feel good about it.''

Tattoo art was once the purview of sailors, criminals and rebels. Today it's the stuff of suburban American teenagers' wardrobes, thanks to business mastermind Christian Audigier, who brought the classic designs of San Francisco tattoo artist Ed Hardy -- heavy black outlines, Japanese themes, morbid details, bright colors and lack of shading -- to the un-tattooed masses.

But some of the creators of Ruthless & Toothless whom you'll recognize from the show -- Garver, Darren Brass, Yoji Harada and James Hamilton -- say their designs are fresh enough and their name recognition strong enough that the company will flourish.

The foursome teamed up with several friends for the endeavor, pooling $100,000 and renting offices in downtown Miami several months ago.

So far, the clothes are available only online, at Prices range from a $26 onesie to a $41 hoodie. Among the designs are doe-eyed cartoonish figures, Japanese characters, peacocks, tigers and a snaggletoothed skull.

The artists hatched the idea for the line several years ago when Harada's wife was pregnant (part of her labor aired on the show). But they didn't act on it. Then more of the Love Hate guys had babies.

And that's when it hit them: The onesies out there stink.

''There's nothing I want to put on my baby,'' said Brass, the father of a 1-year-old boy, Cassius. ``I wanted something something fresh, something new, for a new generation.''

''We have so many friends that are having kids and can't find anything that's not mainstream,'' Garver said.

The company is in talks with retailers stateside, but the plan is to focus on distribution abroad, especially in countries like England, Australia and Germany, where Miami Ink episodes live on in reruns and the show has diehard fans. Ruthless CEO Joey Hernandez said he got a taste of the cultish enthusiasm for the Love Hate artists several weeks ago at the Bread & Butter Barcelona apparel trade show.

''I thought I was with the Beatles,'' he said.

Ruthless & Toothless garments are aimed at parents enamoured of everything that Love Hate Tattoo studio represents, Brass said.

''It's America,'' he said. ``It's Miami. The sun and the glamour. And we give it a little bit of grit.''

The garments are made in Los Angeles -- something the founders hope is another selling point. ''We don't want to sound like the most patriotic people,'' Hernandez said, ``but we are.''

Go to Love Hate Tattoo studio, now at 1360 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach, and you'll probably won't get poked by any of the guys you saw on TLC. They're too busy sketching Ruthless & Toothless designs.

''It's been a lot of blood, sweat and tears,'' Cordes said.

Even though tattoo art has gone mainstream, insist the Miami Ink stars, tattoo culture is as hot as ever. And that, they hope, will help drive sales.

Said Brass, ``Everybody wants to take a walk on the wild side.''