Style Style Talk

Saturday 23 November 2019

The piercing trend gets an upmarket makeover: how Maria Tash made the 'curated ear' a style essential

Celebrity piercer Maria Tash counts Beyoncé and Scarlett Johansson among her clients. As her pop-up shop hits Brown Thomas, our reporter asks her about her cult status

Sparkling success: Jewellery designer and piercer Maria Tash
Sparkling success: Jewellery designer and piercer Maria Tash
Irish Independent journalist Katie's sparkling piercings
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

Scarlett Johansson didn't wow the fashion press with her choice of gown at the Oscars earlier this year. Her jewellery choices, however, got a resounding thumbs-up.

The actress's newly-cropped hairstyle was the perfect foil for an earful of tiny delicate diamond hoops, which dedicated followers of fashion immediately recognised as the handiwork of jewellery designer and piercer Maria Tash.

While multiple ear-piercings were once associated with teenage experimentation and industrial-looking stainless steel ball closure rings, Tash's jewellery has given the 90s trend a timely, upmarket makeover.

Unlike the chunky and conspicuous piercings of old, her fine jewellery collection is made with diamonds, gemstones and smaller fastenings, and designed to be positioned in every nook and cranny of the ear.

It's a signature look and, like a Chanel handbag or a Vetements hoodie, getting 'Tash'd' has become a high-fashion status symbol.

Tash has two standalone stores, pop-up shops all over the world and women like Beyoncé, Scarlett Johansson and Gwyneth Paltrow among her client base, but her brand was far from an overnight success.

Irish Independent journalist Katie's sparkling piercings
Irish Independent journalist Katie's sparkling piercings

She opened her first shop in New York's East Village in 1993, and honed her craft through trial and error. "There was a lot of experimentation in the 90s so we learned what healed and what didn't heal," she explains.

At the time, there was a commonly accepted, yet rarely challenged, idea that ear jewellery had to be 1.3mm to 1.6mm in diameter in order for the tissue to heal after piercing. Tash realised that this wasn't the case, which allowed her to experiment with more delicate, intricate pieces.

She also started to work with sterile disposable needles, which are more hygienic and manoeuvrable than piercing guns, and began to refine what she calls the 'forward-facing' technique, "where the jewellery is angled in a way that is most flattering to the wearer".

"If you went to a mall to get your ears pierced with a gun, the gun generally only goes perpendicular to the tissue, which, depending on how your ears are attached to your face, can make the studs point out to the side," she explains.

Tash, who grew up in Long Island, New York, always had counter-cultural interests. These days she wears Rick Owens and Comme des Garçons but, like many rebellious teenagers, she went through a Goth phase, sported a Mohawk and had her septum pierced at Kensington Market during a study abroad programme at King's College. Her mother told her she looked like a bull when she arrived home.

A few years previously, she bought a cheap piercing gun and practiced on herself and her friends. "I keep those piercings for sentimental purposes even though their placement is not optimal," she laughs.

Tash first studied astronomy at university, but nobody was especially surprised when she moved to San Francisco in 1992 to study piercing. "There was a very happening piercing scene there at the time," she says. "San Francisco was the nexus and then it spread to New York."

Her tastes and techniques have since evolved and after, 25 years in the industry, she has a keen sense of what suits and what doesn't.

Nowadays, her brand is known as much for its jewellery as it is for its highly-personalised service, during which a new client's personal style, skin tone, face shape, jaw line and neck length are taken into consideration. "Our job is to work with your anatomy in such a way that we do the most flattering job for your face," she explains.

"We can emphasise features by drawing the eye to them, or we can detract from, say, a scar, by putting something prominent in a different location where the eye is naturally drawn. There are so many reasons why people will do this, and that's why this field is so fascinating. Sometimes it's because they just broke up; sometimes it's because they just got together.

"Sometimes we get mothers and daughters, and sometimes we get three generations. It's about beauty and bonding - momentary discomfort but doing it together. And I think that's beautiful."

The Maria Tash pop-up will be available from tomorrow until September 10 on level 2 at Brown Thomas Dublin. A walk-in and pre-booking service will be available for the piercing service. Prices start at €115 for jewellery, and piercing is from €20 (lobe).

Irish Independent

Also in this section