The curated ear has had its moment in the limelight for a while now but Maria Tash, arguably the godmother of fashionable piercing, has been pioneering artful fine ear adornment for decades. On Sept. 14, the New York-based innovator is launching two never-before-seen piercing placements—her first new reveals in quite some time!—called the Tash Helix and the Tash Hidden Rook. Read on for the scoop!
Tell us about the new piercing and the ‘floating’ effect, when did this idea come to you?
There are two new piercings, the Tash Helix and the Tash Hidden Rook. These new locations involve jewelry I invented specifically for those locations to evoke a sense of mystery, emergence, motion, and beauty. I wanted people to see the effect and think “Wow, that’s beautiful—how does that work?” I was inspired by hidden interior lighting techniques, where light emerges out of gaps between moulding and the wall. The Helix curl/flap of the ear is akin to the moulding, the flat expansive planes of cartilage are like the wall, and the diamonds and chains are the light. I looked at the ear and thought about places that are underutilized and under appreciated, and how I could play with emergence and movement. The Tash Helix and Hidden Tash Rook were born out of these thoughts and inspirations.
It really is like magic! How does it work?
Thank you! I wanted the effect to make people curious as to how it works, after they are struck with its beauty. To achieve the look for the new Tash Helix and Tash Hidden Rook piercings, I developed a wire, chain, and thread combination to be the new mechanics that hide and house the part of the jewelry that becomes noticeable. These parts were well thought out and arc precisely with the curl of the Helix and the curvature under the Rook. I experimented with different arcs and lengths, and utilized my signature Tash threading to make the pieces comfortable for everyday wear. I wanted the design of the jewelry that emerged move, and the chains and stones fold and conform for comfort during sleep.
From initial idea to perfecting the position and jewelry design, how long does it usually take you to finalize a new Tash piercing?
It is not easy or frequent to come up with a new Tash piercing. Creating new jewelry designs is much easier than figuring out a new piercing location. 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. I use my experience of over twenty years in piercing to know what will heal easily, and my taste as to what looks good.
Have you been sticking it out in your hometown of NYC during quarantine?
Yes, I stayed in Manhattan the whole time. It is a city I love. I did set some goals for myself and wrote them down. I knew this historic period with long, quiet, out of the office time was ideal to accomplish and attend to personal goals. It was a bit lonely, but I started time restricted eating, lost twenty pounds, got in better shape, and finished a patent application for new software.
Is this the first time you have shot a unisex campaign?
It is not the first time, but it is the first one we have done in about twelve years. In the beginning of the 1990s, in the early era of my business, my team and I pierced female and male clients with equal frequency. The jewelry I created was worn by all, and I never separated cases and jewelry by gender. Both genders appeared in equal representation in our print ads in the 1990s. My brand has always catered to clients of all genders, and I feel like I was exposed to all lifestyles in Manhattan’s East Village, where my first studio, Venus Modern Body Arts, was located. It was a wild and experimental era, and I learned so much and am very thankful for all the clients who allowed me freedom to create and experiment on their body canvas. In recent years, there are more and more men getting pierced and buying jewelry that complements their personal style. I think men have to be more brave to wear jewelry and I commend and am excited by those that choose jewelry and piercing as the medium to express themselves.
Tell us about the virtual appointments you were offering this year!
The pandemic forced us to quickly mobilize and start online live styling and consultations with lead piercers around the world. 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.
Are IRL appointments happening again?
Yes. We are now piercing again at every Maria Tash location globally. Thank goodness.
We saw Rihanna wore Maria Tash in the Sept. issue of Harper’s Bazaar! What do you think it is about your brand that resonates with style leaders like her?
I am honored that Rihanna wears my jewelry. It’s particularly meaningful as she came to the brand organically, without any request or paid endorsement. She’s also worn my jewelry to the Met Gala as statement pieces in her first ear lobes. She is an original: an artist that has the courage to wear what she likes confidently, has great taste, and that’s why she’s a style leader. I think style leaders and actors like the idea of what the brand is all about. We live at the intersection of fashion, beauty, and jewelry and I think these influential thinkers really resonate with our ideas of individualism through unique curation, the creativity of the jewelry product itself, and our brand’s inherent edginess. When you see a celebrity wearing Maria Tash you get a glimpse of what they really like and who they really are outside of any roles they play. I find it fascinating and legitimizing.
What’s next for the brand?
We have many plans in the works and I am excited for the future. We are about to open our first Kuwait location, in the Prestige section of the Avenues mall. We have plans to expand locations globally and are working on internal systems and building the team to support expansion. We are constantly working on improving the e-commerce experience, and there will be more features offered virtually come 2021.