With the likes of Zoë Kravitz, Adwoa Aboah, and Ashley Graham all sporting her signature pieces, it's safe to say that luxury jewelry designer and piercer Maria Tash is one name on Hollywood's glitzy speed dial. Determined to find out how someone goes from appreciating the art of piercing to becoming the owner of one of the most successful luxury jewelry brands in the world, we chat with the legend herself.
What drew you to the world of piercing and then jewelry?
I appreciated jewelry as a child. I have many wonderful memories playing in my mother's jewelry box and stringing her multiple necklaces around my neck. My mother would smile as she watched me strutting about with all of her wares. I sketched some jewelry ideas in late childhood, and I hammered shapes into bangle bracelets. Eventually, I started making finger rings and would crochet a purse out of thin metal wire. In my later teenage years, I became involved with goth and punk culture, where piercing played a role in the aesthetic. Multiple earlobe, cartilage, and nostril piercings were a sign of stature and beauty. Eventually, I took a leap and opened a store in Manhattan and have been in business since the 90s.
What are some of the obstacles that you had to overcome at the start of your career?
It was difficult to get the real estate to open my first store. Only after I'd been financially profitable for almost a decade, did I get the opportunity to move to a more central location in Manhattan.
As a piercing and jewelry pioneer, did you face any struggles concerning people's perceptions of piercings?
In the 90s, the perception of body piercing and jewelry was more extreme than it is now. It was more about shock than it was about beauty. There's definitely been an attitude shift towards being more inclusive and accepting of body modification as a whole. When I started piercing, there was only very industrial body jewelry like thick steel rings and barbells available.
Who is the Maria Tash woman?
She is self-purchasing and confident. She's courageous, an appreciator of detail and well-constructed jewelry.
Why do you think the piercing industry has taken off so drastically in recent years?
I think piercing and jewelry have become more popular recently due to the convolution of two factors: the invention of fine jewelry that is thin, elaborate, small, and designed for comfortable long-term wear.
Which celebrity do you feel has put alternative ear piercings on the map?
Zoë Kravitz, Adwoa Aboah, and Ashley Graham are all Maria Tash clients who have multiple piercings in interesting placements on their ears. It's notable when celebrities get pierced and the jewelry becomes a part of them and is not removed regardless of any job they take on. As public figures, celebrities are expected to be chameleons, and by keeping their piercings in, it's a way of staying true to their identity.
What does your brand aim to offer to your clients beyond piercings and jewelry?
Less trips to the therapist! You're making yourself feel better and conquering fear. A lot of times it's a bonding experience with loved ones and there's a lot of emotional underpinning to getting pierced. You're getting an experience.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your designs?
Sometimes it is a new innovation in the jewelry industry, like laser stone drilling or a new color of gold. I have also been inspired by interior design and architecture. For example, how hidden lighting seeps out behind a stone surface, or lights flush with a floor can inspire me to hide diamonds flush with a metal surface or put them on an unexpected edge of a metal design.
What are some of the trends we can look forward to seeing when it comes to piercings/jewelry? Will we be seeing different colors, styles, etc?
Several high lobe piercings placed directly above or in-between existing first, second, or third earlobe placements are very popular right now. A theme that we've seen favored by Maria Tash clients are multiple piercings in the tash rook or contra-conch area of the ear styled with related pieces to create a theme. A key element is finding jewelry pieces that best compliment the skin tone and anatomy of the wearer and honor their personal style.
What are some of the common mistakes you see people making when they go for piercings?
When I look at photos of ears and what women are wearing, the first thing I notice is the angle of the piercings. Most people don't think about it, but the angle of the piercing is very important for it a piece of jewelry to be flattering. Many people have studs and rings that sit at mismatched angles and that should be fixed. Our piercers are trained in my piercing aesthetic, called "forward-facing". The angles on multiple piercings should be parallel to each other and sit so that the wearer can see them straight on. Clients should be able to look in the mirror and see the jewelry and placement in all its splendor and not have to turn the head to see a piece straight on.
What has been your least favorite piercing and jewelry trend thus far?
I feel that eyebrow piercings could be improved with dermal pieces. Generally, the piercing is not done at the correct angle to best flatter the wearer.
How is your Middle Eastern clientele different from those for example in Europe?
Our Middle Eastern clients appreciate the same pieces I wear myself. I can design what I would want to wear, and put it out in the Dubai store, and have confidence that someone will appreciate it and buy it. I can design boldly and have an audience that is more receptive than in the West. I feel like I can design with freedom for the Middle Eastern client.
Has Middle Eastern culture influenced and, or, inspired any of your designs?
I like to reference patterns taken from architectural queues. I've also found inspiration from marquise shapes on engraved plates from the Middle East.
Piercing and jewelry aside, your locations also offer a unique spa experience, can you tell us a bit about it?
The experience in our stores is very personal. Our piercers have years of training with a focus on anatomy and our stores are designed for an intimate experience. The attention to detail found in the delicate, small, and sturdy designs. The uniqueness of the types and sheer range of sizes of rings and studs create a wide palate of styling and curation options for true custom fitting and unique combination styling. I created a thin internal threading to apply to the body, invisible diamond setting in studs and rings and applied the latest in laser technology applied to diamonds to create elaborate and floating diamond effects applied to the body in ways you have not seen before.
If you're looking to get your first ear piercing or add a few new pieces to your collection, you can find Maria Tash's self-titled store in The Dubai Mall. And yes, it features the spa experience too. To make an appointment, simply call +971 4 8817 449 or, visit the official mariatash.com website.