Remember when you felt suddenly compelled to get a handful of tiny piercings along your earlobes and cartilage a few years ago? You can thank Maria Tash for that. The jewelry designer and piercing expert has been chipping away at the grungy, unglamorous stigma of body piercing since 1993, when she opened her first shop in the East Village. By 2005, she’d become a go-to piercer and jewelry designer in New York’s fashion, art, and music circles, and upgraded to her current Noho space—but even then, she couldn’t call it a “piercing” spot. “It was a very different era,” she says. “It had to be about the jewelry, not the piercings. So it’s very exciting to now be embraced for this concept of multiple, unusual lobe piercings with really gorgeous jewelry.”
That’s a good way to sum up her business. Back in the ’90s, body piercings were “thick, industrial steel rings and barbells”—but her cult-adored jewelry is fine, super delicate, and comes in white, yellow, and rose gold studded with diamonds, opals, and other precious stones. Twenty years ago, the idea was that a thicker ring prevented infections, but when Tash realized that wasn’t the case, she started experimenting with those thinner, daintier pieces—and the industry followed. Perhaps the best mark of just how far she’s come is the fact that Liberty London—the 142-year-old department store—invited her to set up a permanent space on its ground floor which opened last August. And tonight, Tash is opening a pop-up at Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship, complete with on-site piercings and a variety of ear, nose, navel, and nipple jewelry.