In recent years the words piercings and earrings have become synonymous with the name Maria Tash.
The founder of the namesake brand has revolutionised the way we think of ear piercings by focussing on the curation of the ear, ensuring every customer has a unique story to tell with the accessories on their ears.
While it may seem like the Maria Tash brand has become evermore popular in the last five years or so, Tash originally founded the brand in New York City in 1993.
Over a decade after launching the brand, the flagship store for Maria Tash was opened in New York City in 2004, which then expanded with a permanent location in Liberty of London which opened back in 2016. Since then, Tash has gone on to open jewellery destinations in Rome, Dublin and Harrods of London, as well as here in Dubai.
The launch of the store in Dubai Mall was a significant milestone for the brand in more ways than one. Not only did it mark the brand’s launch in the Middle East, but it’s also the first luxury piercing destination in a permanent location.
EW recently caught up with Maria Tash to gain an insight to her expertise on piercing trends, how the pandemic has changed the way her business works particularly in the UAE, what particular trends she sees in the region and what her hopes are for the rest of this year both in her professional life – which includes an exciting opening in Kuwait – and personal life.
Ear piercings and accessories have seen a major spike in recent years, and Maria Tash definitely has a major role to play in this. Why do you think people have taken a sudden interest in ear accessories?
The jewellery is more beautiful, versatile and comfortable for continuous long-term wear than ever. I have also worked on and figured out new locations on the ear to be pierced. This combination creates looks people have not seen before, and that is very important to me. I also think it is very easy to style a unique curation per person, because there are so many ways to layer, combine, and custom fit the jewellery now to create an individualised look, and that concept is always appealing.
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What are the biggest piercing trends in the UAE and the rest of the Middle East and what sets this region apart from others?
Our Middle Eastern clients are inventive and willing to take risks for unusual and statement pieces and piercing combinations. I love that attitude, and jewellery that I wear myself sells well in the region, which makes me very happy. The Tash rook is a very popular spot to be pierced on the ear due to its ability to easily house small and large pieces together to tell a story. The more unusual Contraconch is also popular as well as dermal piercings (mainly arm and chest) with jewellery that complements those worn in the ear. The Middle Eastern customer is bolder and not afraid to get multiple piercings. The appreciation of luxury brands and attention to detail that designers focus on is definitely appreciated in the Middle East.
How have you navigated your business through this time of uncertainty and staying home? Has it taught you anything new?
The quarantine forced my team to launch several services to better cater to our Middle Eastern clients when they had to stay at home. These services are now here to stay, and quarantine gave my team time to work on and develop these services which I always wanted but originally conceived of as only for the concierge. Examples of these are complimentary home delivery for all UAE residents, styling and shopping services via WhatsApp, and virtual video styling services in both English and Arabic. We needed to be able to help people without touching them, and we quickly adapted. For example, on new piercings done right before quarantine, we mailed people shorter stud posts for downsizing, and then guided clients via a live session with a piercer in their choice of language, so they could feel confident putting in the piece themselves.
You cleverly came up with the concept of virtually curating the ear throughout lockdown and self-isolation. How was this received with customers?
There were many customers 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 the best of our stylists, worldwide, to curate our global audience. This worked twofold; we could keep our best talent off furlough, and clients could get new ideas, sizing questions addressed, have a socially fun time, all while self-isolated. We did live styling over FaceTime with trusted staff who we loaned product to at home, so clients could actually see the scale of the pieces live, and then see how pieces layered together with advice. We also did video chats with piercers, so clients who were healing or wanted specific anatomy questions could ask those specialists. Clients also contacted us for social styling via direct messaging on Instagram. We were able to connect with thousands of customers, and it was interesting and rewarding to see it was a mix of loyal Maria Tash fans and happily many brand new clients.
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Going forward, has your business strategy altered at all to deal with the changes that have happened in society over the last three months?
We added more extreme hygienic precautions to put customers at ease, like implementing UVC light at the store counter to sterilise anything people may touch at the case. We also swab and test jewellery counters and other higher traffic areas to test on the spot the efficiency of staff disinfection procedures. We also added digital efficiencies to streamline the customer experience and minimize their time in-store. Now, all paperwork needed for piercings and installs can be filled out digitally in advance of coming into the store, saving time. We also launched a hosting app which will ensure a seamless and personalized customer experience in-store. The app allows our host to text or email clients to come back when we are ready for them, which minimizes any crowds in the store, and any wait time for services.
What are your hopes for the rest of this year both personally and professionally?
I’m excited for the future. We are planning to open our first store in Kuwait late this summer in the Prestige section of the Avenues Mall. Its opening was delayed due to the lockdown, and I can’t wait for it to open, as it has been in the works for well over a year. We’ve hosted successful pop-ups in the market and our social media engagement is incredibly strong and vocal, so I know there’s an appetite for the brand and a loyal Maria Tash following in Kuwait. I am confident the combination of pent up demand with a captive audience will result in a strong opening.
I am also thrilled to be launching my new collection in September which features new designs I’ve been working on for years, innovative mechanisms and never-before-seen piercing placements. I’m very happy with the campaign photos as well, which also features men wearing jewellery. This will be our largest introduction of new styles to date, and it has inspired me to be productive, design-wise, during this time of self-isolation. I got a lot of work done during this period, and I can’t wait to open more stores and come to visit the region again!
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Images: Supplied / Maria Tash Instagram