Saaks is the exclusive T-shirt mohel (circumciser) for the fashion lines of French designer Christian Audigier. He specializes in Ed Hardy, the line incorporating designs of American tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy. The T-shirts are known for their colorful skulls, hearts, crossbones and flowers intertwined with messages like "Love Kills Slowly" and "Death or Glory." They are a status symbol of "coolness" for young and old alike.
Saaks travels the world, making appearances at fashion shows, nightclubs and department stores, eight-inch chrome blades in hand, ready to transform -- in a matter of minutes -- already eye-catching, provocative T-shirts into sexualized form-fitted tops and dresses.
The final products might make the parents of any nice Jewish girl blush, even though Saaks counts among his devoted clients Jewish women -- and their mothers.
"I went to Hebrew school on Saturday or Sunday -- I don't remember -- and became a skateboarder and outcast," Saaks said.
The Journal met with the 36-year-old artist at the flagship, multiroomed Christian Audigier store on the corner of Melrose and Fairfax avenues, a day before his trip to Egypt for the wedding of former Spice Girl Melanie Brown. Why not make a stop in Israel?
"I don't have time," he said, although it's likely he'd be a big hit at the Ed Hardy store in Tel Aviv.
Saaks' assimilation was preceded by that of his grandfather, who shortened the family name from "Isaaks" to "Saaks" when he came to America from Romania. The change was prophetic: Saaks' girlfriend, a Croation-Swedish model, pointed out that sax means "scissors" in Swedish.
By the time his older siblings celebrated their bar mitzvahs, his parents grew less strict with tradition, not that he cared much.
Lately, though, he has developed a renewed Jewish pride, thanks in part to his belated bar mitzvah in Paris last year by a rabbi he met at a fashion showroom.
"This rabbi told me, 'You weren't bar mitzvahed? We'll bar mitzvah you now!' He put those straps on my arm and the box on my forehead, and I recited stuff."
Normally he wears a Star of David consisting of a white gold chain, a white gold star and a charm of white platinum scissors studded with diamonds.
A wardrobe stylist for 10 years before moving to Los Angeles in 2001, Saaks said his talent was revealed to him at a trade show in Las Vegas in 2001. While he was helping a friend launch a T-shirt line, "one girl passing by wanted a shirt cut like something on the rack. I pulled her aside, did two cuts and drew a crowd of 50 people. They didn't leave until I finished the shirt."
Now he charges anywhere from $350 for a single brit milah (circumcision) to $5,000 for a booked event. His designs are sold off the rack at the Melrose store, but there is nothing like getting the T-shirt personally sliced on the wearer. All the wearer needs is a little faith.
Saaks' promotional tours have surely helped the Ed Hardy line get more exposure (or shall we say, "overexposure"). Billboards dominate Los Angeles, celebrities prance around town wearing Audigier designs, but there may be another Jewish twist to Audigier's success.
"We have mezuzahs all over the place. Christian has them on his house, on his office," Saaks said, referring to the ritual boxes placed on doorposts of Jewish homes and businesses enclosing the sacred Jewish prayer to love God. "It's not a Jewish-run company at all, but his mentors are pretty religious, people he grew up with, so they're always guarding him."
Indeed, all of the doors at the store had mezuzahs on them -- but the cheap, uninspiring plastic variety the sofer (scribe) usually gives for free with the scroll. Audigier, with the help of Saaks and his Jewish friends, might want to think about a mezuzah line -- minus the skulls and crossbones, but preserving the florals and the message, "love."
This would certainly promote another mitzvah (commandment), in addition to circumcision -- the Hardy way.