If her story starts in New-York City, Tash, led by her “art meets science” approach of design and piercing, has since conquered many different markets, and has landed in Dubai two years ago with an impressive store in the city’s most popular shopping destination, the Dubai Mall.
JDEED spoke to Maria Tash about her new collection release and its new intriguing ear placement concepts, the new spike diamond, her Middle Eastern customers and more.
By Cynthia Jreige
As a child I would rummage through my mother’s jewelry box, and to her amusement, I would frequently walk around draped in multiple layered necklaces, and bracelets. My mother enrolled in an adult education jewelry class, and brought me when I was age 9, where I started hammering designs into bangle bracelets. I made more jewelry on my own, like double finger rings, and knitted a metal purse in my early teens. At about age 15, as I got into punk and goth music and culture, I developed a love of multiple ear piercings, and spent time in libraries researching historical references of elaborate piercings, like those of Indian/Pakistani weddings and certain African tribal pieces.
I grew up in suburban Long Island in New York, and was very inspired and excited by street culture involving the goth/punk music scene of Manhattan in the 1980s as well as my first trip to London in the late 1980s. It was an exciting time in fashion and music culture. I began to mentally integrate the liberating mix of asymmetric fashion looks in the punk and goth scene with the best of historical jewelry references, which started me on my journey of developing my own style and creating something new in the piercing world.
In 1993 I opened my first piercing studio, Venus Modern Body Arts, in the East Village of Manhattan. I took courses and spent a lot of time in a piercing studio in San Francisco, and was able to merge piercing techniques on the US West coast with those happening on the East Coast which ultimately created a Maria Tash piercing aesthetic as well as a now recognizable jewelry aesthetic.
It was an easy decision to choose Dubai as our first Middle East location, partly because I love the city and also because it is such an important international hub. I am very inspired by the style and scale of the architecture in the city, as well its high standards and appreciation of luxury. The Dubai mall invited us to be in their Fashion Avenue, alongside other luxury houses and I was thrilled for the opportunity to have such wonderful brands as neighbors. I also love the fact I can see the Burj Khalifa up through the sky roof directly in front of our storefront. We designed our best store to date in the Dubai Mall, in terms of size, interior design, and ambience.
It was a pivotal expansion point for the company, and I am so pleased it is doing well. I did have a sense of the clientele as we had done a pop-up in Dubai a couple of years earlier, and several pop-ups in Kuwait before we took the leap to open in the Dubai Mall. These pop-ups allowed me to understand which pieces sold best and what I could iterate on to best meet what people like.
Part of why I enjoy spending time in the region is that our clients like and purchase much of what I wear and love myself. I can design what I would want to wear, and put it out in the Dubai store, and have confidence 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. Our Middle East clients love statement diamond pieces for all areas of the body, especially pear and marquise shapes and clusters of these stones. The Middle Eastern customer is bolder with the pieces they choose and they are not afraid to get multiple piercings.
I will say, that social media is a great equalizer, and that curated jewelry and piercing styles put out on Instagram disseminate out very quickly all around the world, where they are received and integrated by our global audience. That means style choices are no longer confined to a region. And on the piercing front, there are so many commonalities between all age groups and genders for why someone would get pierced. Celebrating milestones, personal accomplishments and relationships are some common reasons people get pierced that give all of us joy.
The launch of our virtual services stemmed from many customers during quarantine wanting styling help, suggestions, and ideas when our stores were closed. We received calls to customer service and an overwhelming number of social media inquiries. We quickly mobilized our top stylists and piercers, worldwide, to curate and speak to our global audience. I’m proud to say we offered virtual styling and piercing sessions in five different languages. These concierge services, where clients could speak one on one with the best of my global team, was a feature I always wanted to offer, but never got around to implementing due to focusing on physical store expansions. I knew our clients wanted to consult with piercers while they were still healing and our physical stores were closed, and we needed to look and see how their healing was progressing in real time, at their leisure. I knew our clients wanted advice, suggestions, and desired new jewelry.
They also had fitting questions about their current jewelry. We did a lot of consultations with people who had just learned about the brand, and they set up a virtual appointment due to finding our website, connecting via our social media channels, or being referred by a friend. Our virtual appointments helped existing clients, helped to create new clients, and kept stylists and piercers from being furloughed. Since the reopening of the physical stores, we have kept the consultations and concierge services, but with fewer hours scheduled as much of the workforce is back on the physical front line. During quarantine I finished applying for a patent on some software I designed that enhances virtual styling. I foresee these online tools will remain important and develop into the future.
Thank you for your description of the new collection, and succinctly understanding its features and my goals. The collection is a release of concepts that were in my sketch pads over the past few years. Part of my personal goals is to bring to life ideas in my head and there are many that sit in books waiting to come to life. The genderless aspect is a feature that as been part of my designs since I opened my first store in 1993. I don’t design with gender or age in mind. I don’t care how old you are, who you love, or what gender you identify with, just if you like the design and if it speaks to you and makes you feel confident and beautiful. As far as the new piercing locations, it is not easy or frequent to come up with a new Tash piercing. The last one I pioneered before the Tash Helix and Tash Hidden Rook was the Tash Rook several years ago.
Perfecting the jewelry design for a new piercing location usually can take up to a year, with several rounds of sampling and fittings. Sometimes I have to develop new types of curves to receive threading and I have to give a lot of thought as to the shape of the arcs, the hardness of the materials, the thickness of the posts, and the size of components on the front and back of the jewelry. The jewelry should be beautiful when viewed from the front as well as the back (with short hair or worn up), and be comfortable for continuous everyday wear. As far as the new engineering, I always have fun developing new mechanisms, or trying to hold a stone in a way one has not seen before, or creating new diamond or stone shapes.
This collection shows diamonds suspended in a way never seen before in my hybrid charm studs, and new diamond cuts in the long diamond spikes. I wanted to create a thoughtful collection of luxury products that builds on the Maria Tash foundation, but also introduces fresh, very elevated and interesting pieces. I’ve always been focused on the balance between a piece that’s timeless and can be worn over years, across generations, but one that is also modern and current.
I am very pleased you like the new diamond spike cut! I applied it to both studs and rings. They are set in two different ways. First, with an invisible setting where you don’t see any metal on top of the stone (I am known for this minimalist setting on other diamond shapes), and secondly as a prong set stone with elaborate side detailing that includes complementary, angular cut diamonds. On the smaller spike diamonds there is apparent free air suspension of the stone on the bottom of the eternity rings, but inside where the stone meets the ring is a clever hidden mechanism to keep the stone securely in place. The effect is intended to be modern and also a second generation of iconic Maria Tash spike studs and rings.
As we go into the future, I intend to see how far I can get the diamond cutters to create new shapes. I have some sketched out but not sampled yet. I also like to think in reverse: ‘How can I treat metal like a diamond?’ and have some ideas on paper that need to be born. Additionally, I want to find ways to wear or embed the new pieces I create in the body for an effect you have not seen before, and that can be worn continuously. I value the importance of comfort and continuous wear to all of my pieces, and also to the overall weight of a piece. They can’t be heavy. That’s very important.
Yes and yes. I can’t wait to open the Kuwait store located inside the Avenues mall in its Prestige section. We are just waiting to be able to easily fly in staff and to finish construction which was considerably slowed during the pandemic. I look forward to seeing the clients I met during the popups we did there a few years ago and spend some time in the region.
I also want to expand further in the Middle East. I find it very rewarding and validating to be in an area where my designs are well received, and people like and wear what I personally choose to wear. I do expect to release some designs in the region before the rest of the world in 2021, and would consider regional capsule collections.
The campaign imagery was photographed by Tom Schirmacher in New York City
Discover more about Maria Tash and shop her collections, here