Dani Egna has always been “in love with all things art.”
In high school on Long Island, N.Y., Egna sold her own works through galleries and on Etsy. But it was when she was studying fine arts, with an emphasis on painting, at the University of Southern California that Egna hit on an idea for her own brand.
One evening, Egna’s friends asked her to create doodles on their bodies using eyeliner. “The feedback from that night was overwhelming,” recalls Egna, 29. “In that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head… I could do something completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market.”
Egna, who now lives in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, believed there was a gap in the market for “elevated designs that were geared toward the Gen Z and millennial audience.” Seizing an opportunity, she founded INKED by Dani in 2015 while still in college.
The brand, which features temporary tattoos designed and drawn by Egna herself, is now sold in more than 1,000 independent boutique retailers and roughly 100 national and international chains including Macy’s, ASOS, Bloomingdale’s, and Urban Outfitters. In 2021, INKED by Dani sold over 15 million original tattoo designs.
“Almost 30% of the U.S. population has real tattoos, and I believe the stigma around tattoos is starting to fade. I think now more than ever, using our body as a canvas of self-expression is more present and something that should be celebrated,” Egna says.
While Egna designs most of the tattoos and nail art herself, she also features other artists. Limited-edition collections include temporary tattoos designed with celebrity tattoo artist Winter Stone, known for his work on clients such as Miley Cyrus, Sophie Turner, and Joe Jonas. Proceeds raised will benefit arts education provider Inner-City Arts.
Using her business to support others is critical to Egna, whose “Charitable Tats” designs all go toward supporting different causes. “This initiative is so important to me and brings a whole new meaning to my art,” she says.
Egna recently shared a few of her favorite things with Penta.
My favorite thing to drink right now is… boring, but, iced coffee, forever and always. My go-to is a cold brew with milk and a Sweet’N Low.
The restaurant in my hometown that I love to take a visitor to is… Harbor Deli in Port Washington, N.Y. A classic Long Island deli, but it definitely holds a special place in my heart. My friends and I used to go all the time after high school.
If I were to buy a piece of art, it would be by… Yoshitomo Nara. I love the simplistic yet whimsical feeling his pieces evoke. I recently went to Sotheby’s to see his art in person for the first time; it’s magic.
A person who inspired me to do what I do is… my father. My whole life I watched him build and grow his own business, and am still inspired by his innovative, creative, and passionate approach to everything he does.
My favorite beauty brand is… I have been loving Merit. It’s great for on-the-go. Quick and easy to apply, and everything looks super natural.
A body art design I love is… okay that’s a tough one… each is a piece of my art so it’s hard to just pick one. I think I usually gravitate more toward the words and phrases. Maybe because they feel like they are the most personal, since it’s in my handwriting?
If I could have a meal with anybody, anywhere, it would be… Greta Thunberg, anywhere, anytime! I love how she’s become an icon of climate change at such a young age.
A passion of mine that few people know about is… photography. My camera roll has over 70,000 photos. I also really love printmaking and ceramics. Creating art that is really hands on… I find it incredibly relaxing. It’s my favorite thing to do when I want to disconnect.
My favorite hotel in the world is… Tierra Patagonia [in Torres del Paine, Chile.]. Patagonia truly felt like being on a different planet. It’s quite a trek to get there, but if you can, I recommend it to everyone.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.