Fine jewelry designer Maria Tash Photo: Courtesy Maria Tash
This summer, fine jewelry designer Maria Tash celebrated a milestone moment: the opening of her newest store, located in Prestige at The Avenues, Kuwait. Spread across a whopping 2,100 square feet, the new space is officially the third Maria Tash destination in the Middle East, with the first two opening in Dubai Mall in 2018, and Mall of Emirates in 2021. It’s clear that the entrepreneur has come a long way, having opened her first store in Manhattan’s East Village in 1993.
For Tash, it was important for the jewelry house’s Kuwait edition to tell her story through its interiors. Best known for pushing the envelope with minimalistic sparklers that tempt every shopper to load up on piercings, the designer’s new space is all about clean lines, sleek shapes, and modern detailing, bringing together a palette of soft grays, custom glass and leather and metallic accents. Perched right next to Fauchon, Tiffany, and Van Cleef & Arpels, the boutique also boasts a private ‘women’s only’ lounge, ensuring that every visitor has a comfortable shopping experience.
Maria Tash boutique in Kuwait. Photo: Courtesy Maria Tash
“It has been a long journey,” Tash says triumphantly about the Kuwait store during a chat with Vogue Arabia. “I did two very successful pop-ups in 2016 in Kuwait and I have been waiting to open in the country since. I signed the store lease in the Prestige section of The Avenues a couple of years ago, but we could not get into the country to establish all of the corporate setups and fly specialized employees in due to Covid.” After years of waiting, the new flagship doesn’t just stand out for its envy-worthy interiors and invest-worthy customizable creations, but also for its futuristic touches. “It is the first location to have special tools I invented to visualize and preview jewelry for the patented Tash Helix and Hiddlen Tash Rook piercing locations,” she elaborates, proving that the only way for this fine jewelry designer is up.
A closer look inside the Kuwait store. Photo: Courtesy Maria Tash
She may still be basking in the glow of the success of her Kuwait store, but there isn’t much time to stop and smell the roses in Maria Tash’s world. As she gears up for her next big openings—Maria Tash will soon be making homes in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Paris—the designer of the moment sits down with Vogue Arabia for a quick chat, where she reveals her biggest jewelry insights, from her favorite memories, to the key pieces every woman should own, and much more. Dive in!
What is your first memory with jewelry?
My first memory is rummaging through my mother’s jewelry box and draping almost all of the pieces inside on myself. She had a great laugh when she saw me with all of her necklaces on my tiny body. Little did she know how it would manifest later in life!
You’ve been in the jewelry industry for close to two decades now. Can you tell us how your love for jewelry came about?
My love of jewelry expressed itself [in my childhood] when I was drawing flowers and imagining them in jewelry. When I was 9, I was hammering metal sheets and wrapping wire into basic shapes. In my early teens, I started doing more daring designs, like attaching necklaces to studs between my ears, creating a suspended ear-to-ear effect, and wrapping wire between two fingers to create a “two finger ring”.
As a teen, I also became more involved with music—specifically goth and punk—and developed a love for multiple ear and nostril piercings. By the mid 1980s, I was gluing a gem in my navel (navel piercing were not available back then), because I thought it was beautiful, and was enamored by books showing images of Indian weddings and their elaborate multiple lobes, cartilage, nostril, and septum jewelry.
In the late 1980s, I moved to London and got my nostril double pierced and added multiple ear piercings. After completing college, I took a leap and opened my first store in the East Village, designing and fabricating jewelry and performing piercing daily on all areas of the body. My love for jewelry has been with me since I was a child, and continues today as I am still enthralled with gorgeous stones, unusual diamond cuts, clever mechanisms, and unique piercing locations.
The lapis luis collection. Photo: Courtesy Maria Tash
From New York and London to Dubai and Kuwait, your customizable fine jewelry seems to have global appeal. Do you notice a difference in the tastes of the Maria Tash consumer in different regions? What makes the Middle Eastern customer unique?
Social media has been a great way to equalize demand for certain ear curations. My Middle East clients love bold diamond pieces for all areas of the body, and are not afraid to get multiple piercings. My lotus marquise clusters are popular in the region, as well as my threaded diamond charms and studs in pear and marquise shapes. They also like the large silhouette-cut diamonds (a shape I have cut for the brand), as well as our floating diamond tassel earrings. I feel like my minimalistic, invisible diamond settings, patented mechanisms, and attention to detail are appreciated in the region. Much of what is popular in the Middle East is what I wear personally, and I’m very happy about that fact.
From your own collection, what are the key pieces that you think every woman should own, and why?
I really love my Floating Diamond Tassel Earrings, and my Floating Diamond Charm Studs. The Tassel Earrings I wear in both my earlobes and helix and are a favorite because they are just so lightweight, full of movement, and very sparkly. The diamond charm studs are a hybrid between the desirable movement features of a charm and the versatility of a stud, because they can be worn almost anywhere on the ear.
Invisible set diamond star stud earring in 18k white gold. Photo: Courtesy Maria Tash
I love movement and I love extremely minimalist stone settings. I gave a lot of thought with these studs as to how the beautiful diamond shapes could be gently suspended in the air, held minimally, emerge from hidden parts of the ear if desired, and sit perfectly flush with the ear. Also, I think a Maria Tash essential are my diamond eternity rings, like the five row pave rings, marquise invisible set rings, and invisible set round diamond rings. I like them in a snug fit with or without a charm hanging off for movement. These rings look great regardless of your piercing angle, sit so close to the skin, and feature my signature invisible setting and minimal pave setting.
Could you please share your top three tips on buying jewelry?
First, find a piece you really love, and ideally can wear continuously. 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. I believe everyone should wear pieces that are low profile, especially studs sticking off the ear and finger rings with stones that sit on top of the finger. A very deliberate low profile setting prevents catching the stone settings on apparel, or the piece turning (on the finger) or pointing down or out (for ear studs) due to the weight and height of the jewelry above then skin.
Pearl and diamond eternity triple linked hoop earring and cuff in 18k rose gold. Photo: Courtesy Maria Tash
Secondly, I think investing in pieces that are at least 14k-18k or platinum is a wise investment because elemental gold, as a commodity, is at an all-time high. Diamonds also tend to hold their value. I have made the decision not to work with any diamond that is less than VS2/G in clarity/color so they continue to hold their value. I would also choose a piece that is alloyed without nickel. In the US, almost all white gold is mixed with nickel, which makes it white. The EU has a stricter standard, and it has always been part of the Maria Tash brand to keep nickel out of all of our gold, so no one will have an allergic reaction.
Lastly, really loving a piece of fine jewelry [is important] because of its beauty or its symbolism, and having it add confidence and pride in how you see yourself is its true value.
Fine jewelry designer Maria Tash Photo: Courtesy Maria Tash
Harvey Nichols in Kuwait
Harvey Nichols Kuwait has taken action with regards to one of its stocked brands following comments made by its founder that were deemed anti-Palestine. Amid escalating violence in the country, Jasmin Larian of Cult Gaia, the Los Angeles-based ready-to-wear brand in question, recently came under fire following her Instagram post which was considered to be against human rights.
Her post read, “I am seeing so much misinformation on social… One-sided and spreading hate. Please educate yourself on the full story before reposting. I’m praying for everyone on both sides who are a victim of this violence.” According to health officials, as of May 15, the Israel-Gaza violence has caused the death of 132 Palestinians, among them women and children. Eight people have died in Israel. As such, given the escalation of violence in the region, Larian’s post was perceived as slanted by those in support of Palestine and heavily criticized by the clients of the department store. It lead to mass outrage on social media calling for Cult Gaia’s boycott by consumers and its stockists around the Gulf.
In response to the backlash, Larian later shared, “I realize I am part of the problem by failing to share both sides.” She added, “I also want to be clear that I am in support of the Palestinian people and their rights but not of the leadership that uses them to incite violence and hatred for Israel and Jews. In a perfect world, Israel should be a place for all people and all religions.” However, a chain reaction of stores actioning the feedback asking for the brand’s removal had already begun.
Today, May 17, Harvey Nichols Kuwait took to Instagram to announce its decision to “remove” Cult Gaia. The statement posted to its Instagram stories read, “Our dear followers, due to the current escalation of events, the decision has been made to remove Cult Gaia from Harvey Nichols.” The same was called for by social media users from the luxury department store’s other Middle Eastern branches. Since then, Harvey Nichols Dubai and Bloomingdales Middle East have stated on their Instagram stories that they have “escalated this matter and will ensure” that it takes “any necessary steps.” While no comment has been made by Harvey Nichols Riyadh, an Instagram direct message from the department store in Doha says that it has “removed the brand from display.” A similar message from Galeries Lafayette in Doha reads that it will be removing the brand from the store.
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