The Human condition: Piercing with a nice lite touch

Out with dark and ethnic, in with clubby and bubbly. A new emporium aims to give body piercing a fun new image... By Fiona Mountford
The Barbie-pink facade, the big clear windows decorated with Sergeant Pepper-era writing, the enticing jewellery cases inside... at first glance everything about Quixotic is exactly what one would expect for a prime shop unit in the currently phoenix-like Carnaby Street area. But hold on: go a little nearer and read the sign: "Body Piercing". Just what exactly are those brassy, curlicued affairs that wouldn't look out of place on an Essex front door? Earrings to stretch and make gaping holes in the ears. And who is that man with enough metal inserted into his body to keep airport X-ray machines bleeping for hours? Piercing entrepreneur and proprietor Bryan Lipps.

"I want to get piercing away from its dark and ethnic image, to create something clubby and bubbly," he enthuses, while carrying out a surface piercing of a small flexible bar through a customer's upper arm ("It won't take; the body will reject it. It's just to shock." So, that's alright then). It was for this reason that he quit the famous Metal Morphosis piercing studio and set out on his own, opening Quixotic this August. "I wanted to have time to improve my customer service and bedside manner, as well as the aftercare instruction and products."

But Lipps is no rookie when it comes to journalists. "You want to hear some horror stories, don't you?" No, no, aftercare is very import... oh, go on, then. "Well, there isn't anything I haven't seen, although this guy with the arm is unusual." The only no-go area is the clitoris ("I'm in awe of it"). Besides, "other genital piercings can give more pleasure". Which presents the next logical question. Yes, Lipps does have genital piercings. Would I like to see? In the interests of research, I feel duty bound, and one "8mm thick" Prince Albert, one frenum and three pearls under the penis shaft later, I feel somewhat shaky. But he tells me that "girls love it", and that condoms can still be worn. Well, that will set the minds of the Safe Sex lobby at rest.

As a "young Goth", Lipps first discovered piercing when he and a girlfriend went to get their nipples pierced by "the founding father of piercing in England", Mr Sebastian. It was only a short step to a piercing a month ("In those days I went for quantity rather than quality") and to embracing his hobby as his profession. And piercing itself is a lot more all-embracing than common perception would have it. In its short history, Quixotic has already seen such diverse clients as an 80-year-old, a Jewish Orthodox man in full hat and curls regalia and many "straight, middle-class couples".

And if Lipps has his way, piercing will become just another activity to fit in during a visit to the nearby Oxford Street shops, as he is planning a sandwich board campaign to entice shoppers and to rival the perennial promotion of the golf sale. "I also want to make the shop glow at night with pink neon, and get a lava-lamp projector to make images on the wall opposite. In six months' time this place is going to look the dog's bollocks." Heavily pierced, naturally.

Quixotic, 37 Marshall St, London W1, 0171 437 9200. We have two pounds 20 Quixotic gift vouchers to give away to the first two people who send an SAE to: Body Piercing, Real Life, IoS, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.