November’s – ‘The Fine Jewellery Issue’ – Download Now
Maria Tash is globally renowned for her intricate yet bold ear adornment. We spoke to the fine jeweller about making a powerful impact, in stealth mode.
What do your first 30 mins of the day look like, your morning routine?
I usually wake up automatically around 7:30-8am unless I have been up very late the night before. I have a large, king size canopy bed with silk chiffon drapes and satin pillowcases so I treasure my time in bed and don’t get out of it quickly! Once I do get out and into the shower, I think of what I am grateful for because I think it gives me a calm demeanour in the midst of stressful meetings and decisions later in the day. If I have been proactive and planned what I wear the night before, then I have time to do a 12-minute arm workout video on YouTube before I get dressed, put on my makeup, and start getting into calls.
How did you know it was the right time to launch your own brand and what were the stepping-stones to that point?
In 1993 I opened my first store, Venus Modern Body Arts, in the East Village of Manhattan. In the 1990s there were no studios in New York that offered a combination of unusual piercing locations paired with beautiful jewellery designs so I knew there was an opportunity in the market. It took many years working in that experimental 1990s era and on thousands of people where I developed my piercing style and recognizable jewellery aesthetic and mechanisms. After ten years there, I knew I wanted to move into a more prominent retail location. I developed credibility with the banks and landlord in the original store location, so then I could finally get a new lease and afford the rent in a more expensive and prestigious neighbourhood. Eventually, I wanted more obvious recognition for the work I had done, so I got up the nerve to put my name on the door.
In 2016, my brand began expanding internationally with a store location at Liberty London and once that concession did well, we got offers to open all around the world. We have since opened permanent stores in Rome, Dublin, Harrods London and Dubai with plans to continue expanding globally.
Do you feel more drawn to the creative or the business side of the brand and how have you grown the team to support this?
I am drawn to both, but I feel I have more talent in the creative side and wish I spent more time in it. The business side, especially the aspect of sitting with spreadsheets analyzing the retail data as well as setting the pace on store expansion plans appeals to the science major aspect of my brain. As the company has grown, I have hired and deeply appreciated my colleagues who are specialists in their departments. I spend a lot of my time in meetings with these leaders throughout the week. Hiring a head of HR was critical for hiring talented people and developing necessary structures and policies. Hiring a head of finance with global experience who loves to travel is another critically important person with whom I spend much of my time. Other leads are head of creative, head of visual design, head of business development, head of marketing, and head of inventory, head of e-commerce, and head of IT. A few years ago, just 4-5 people including myself would juggle these roles the best we could. But developing these departments is necessary to expand in the way we have and to give me some freedom and more time to design.
Design is my favourite part of what I do, and a natural part of how I think and look at the world. I feel a compulsion to make jewellery concepts in my head a reality. I now have a small team, that helps immensely and allows me to have more time and freedom to focus on creating. It’s a euphoric feeling to create something new that no one has seen before and embed it into the body in a manner not seen before. I love the fun, joy, and empowerment that emanates from clients after being styled or pierced with the jewellery and curated concepts. I am humbled and honoured to be surrounded by people who have fun working on the brand vision.
You have clients the globe over – do you see any buying patterns based on regions or countries and have you seen any changes this year as a result of COVID-19?
I am frequently asked which areas of the world purchase different types of jewellery. I used to be able to say the Middle East liked larger stones and the UK loved gold spiked jewellery. But now, buying patterns and style choices are no longer regionalized thanks to our digital community. Social media is a great equalizer and curated jewellery 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. 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.
Which piece of jewellery that you own is most special to you and why?
That’s like asking if you have a favourite child. It’s hard to choose just one! I have some jewellery I wear continuously and others, like those in my first earlobes that I change daily or sometimes don’t wear to draw attraction to the other pieces on my ear. I love a rare eye-ring that I designed, whose iris is well painted, and cut, and is housed in an elaborate 18k filigree and diamond band. I also love a gold star bracelet worn by my grandmother and I have childhood memories of her kneading Armenian dishes with that bracelet making a comforting repetitive noise as she toiled in the kitchen as a master. I love many pieces of my jewellery for different reasons. Some are rare, some are so sentimental, and others so beautiful and practical. From my current collection, I love the Diamond Threaded Charms as they are a hybrid of a charm and a stud and when nestled inside the underutilized anatomy of the new Tash Hidden Rook or Tash Helix piercings, they create a look that has never seen before.
What tips would you give anyone wanting to invest in a fine piece of jewellery?
Find a piece you really love. I strive to make pieces that are very “low profile” so that they sit extremely low to the skin which makes them very comfortable for long-term wear. Gold is at an all-time high in intrinsic value. It is a commodity as are diamonds. If one ever needed to sell a piece just for its parts, fine jewellery holds its value. I would purchase one in 18k gold or platinum, with diamonds that are at least VS2/G and not lower clarity and colour. If you choose coloured diamonds or gemstones, I would make sure they are translucent and of high colour and clarity as those stones hold value. When you purchase a well-respected brand of fine jewellery the pieces can inflate in value. I have also converted earrings and navel jewellery into pendants for clients who loved a piece or a stone but wanted a new location for it. Now it is even easier to sell fine jewellery on luxury pre-loved platforms. But really loving a piece of fine jewellery because of its beauty or its symbolism, and having it add confidence and pride in how you see yourself is its true value.
Where is the most unusual point you’ve taken inspiration from for your designs?
I was recently inspired by interior design and the way light emerges from a gap between a wall and moulding. That was the inspiration for my designs created for the new Tash piercings that emerge out of the folds of the Helix and under the Rook. Diamonds are the light and the curls of cartilage are the moulding. Combining that concept with movement and new piercing locations created an effect never seen before.
We love that your pieces all work so well back to each other. Do you see clients returning to add to their collection?
Yes and thank you, we do frequently! Sometimes people are inspired by a piece of jewellery and then try and figure out a location to get pierced with it if they want to add it to their current collection. There are many other ways to add to current pieces without any new piercings, and this is what our stylists do every day, globally. For example, one can add to their current collection by using the new connector chains, dangles, and charms. It’s always fun to come in and add some pieces for a new look, especially when the metal colour, length of post and diameter of the ring are all custom fit in-store. We want clients to have fun moving around and curating Maria Tash components into unique combinations, and we do this type of styling in-person and virtually every day.
Do you have any pre-bedtime rituals?
I usually go for a walk at night in Manhattan when it is not so crowded to unwind and get that mild yet very healthy type of exercise during the weekdays. I also listen to motivational videos as I walk, uninterrupted. When I get home I take a shower, put on my silky pyjamas, and watch about 30 minutes of a classic movie, I love the 1930s-1940s. I make tea infused with herbs specially formulated by my acupuncturist, and put on La Mer neck and décolleté cream before I climb into bed. I stop looking at texts and calls before I start these pre-bedtime rituals.
What advice would you give to your younger self starting out?
You are stronger and more capable than you think you are, and don’t get so stressed out about disappointments. Do not let others, especially romantic interests, derail you from your dreams or confidence. As I got older, I became more confident. Looking back, I was better than I gave myself credit for.
November’s – ‘The Fine Jewellery Issue’ – Download Now
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