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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Maria Tash in Dubai: a makeover that won’t leave a hole in your bank balance

We visit the jeweller and piercing artist's new Dubai Mall store

Liz Cookman gets a piercing at the Maria Tash store in The Dubai Mall Antonie Robertson / The National
Liz Cookman gets a piercing at the Maria Tash store in The Dubai Mall Antonie Robertson / The National

Ears are complicated-looking things. Nature almost certainly made them that way – full of folds, lobes, nooks and crannies – so you would have somewhere to put your diamonds. And if anyone knows how to transform a crumpled combination of skin and cartilage into a thing of beauty, it’s Maria Tash, the body jeweller to the stars who opened her first shop in the Middle East last month, in The Dubai Mall.

The outlet is the first non-medical shop licensed to perform piercings in the UAE, offering services from the waist up. The team use the brand’s signature range of demi-fine jewellery, and the store offers Tash’s much-coveted “ear-styling” service. Having led the curated ear trend – with Tash fans ranging from Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Alba to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé – the brand has taken the tacky piercings that were all the rage in your teens and transformed the look into something elegant and luxurious.

Last weekend, I headed in to test out the service. As someone who has spent most of her life recoiling from the shame of having ears that already make a perpendicular sort of a statement by themselves, the prospect of having my ears turned into a trendy statement seeming both delicious and petrifying. The stylists at Maria Tash’s eponymous stores are trained to study your complexion and anatomy, as well as gauge your personality and aesthetic to help you find the best styles.

The store is already attracting a lot of attention, especially from Gulf Arabs. With its high-end look and bespoke service, the brand almost feels as if it was made for Dubai. The first outlet opened in New York in 1993, and built up a reputation due to Tash’s personal piercing style and commitment to detail when it comes to designing the jewellery. After openings in London, Dublin and Rome, and hosting pop-ups in the region – one in Dubai and two in Kuwait City – drew a strong response, the Emirates were an easy choice for expansion. And cross-pollination of the brand by UAE citizens with houses in other cities meant it had a strong following.

“Dubai is, in my view, the centre of the whole Middle East. It’s an international hub and a natural place for us to come after the success of the pop-ups,” Tash tells The National on the phone from New York. “It’s a very exciting city. I think people appreciate beauty, jewellery and fashion in a way that is unique and special to this part of the world.”

So far, the team have found that a lot of women who walk into the shop in Dubai already have a lot of piercings, so they work around those. “You can leave with a unique combination of things that no one else will have, and I love that. And we get to think of new places to hide jewels in the ear,” says Tash. “I really feel like part of our job is to make you feel more beautiful.”

Back at the store, the stylists win their first gold star by telling me my ears are quite small. Then they guide me through the jewellery, which ranges from a trinity of tiny metal balls to an eternity tassel ring that cascades with strings of diamonds.

We work in harmony with my existing lobe and conch piercings. As a long-time Instagram-stalker of the brand, I opt for the white gold lightning bolt I have had my eye on for years, which I get in my left tragus to balance out my more densely pierced right. And in my right, we decide to add a demure and ultra-sparkly circle with a piercing in a skin groove above the rook, as the top fold on my ear is too small for a forward helix piercing with a bar.

The store sells its own signature jewellery range. Antonie Robertson / The National
The store sells its own signature jewellery range. Antonie Robertson / The National

The Dubai team have been trained in Maria Tash’s signature method in London, which ensures the tunnel goes through the skin in such a way that the jewellery sits facing forward to flatter the wearer. Far from the seedy backstreet parlours associated with piercing, the service at the stylishly decked-out outlet is professional and well considered.

My Tash piercings are the easiest I’ve had, with limited soreness and swelling over the following days. And coupled with some carefully selected jewellery for my existing piercings, I am left with ears that I am almost proud of.

“You get your eyebrows tweezed, or your legs waxed, and it hurts a little bit. This is no different in terms of pain, and the tools are so good now that the discomfort factor is minimal,” says Tash. “So now it’s really about beauty and art.”

So, does it hurt? A bit. Is it affordable? At a push, jewellery prices range from Dh200 to many thousands. Will I be back? Absolutely.

The Maria Tash piercing parlour and jewellery shop is at Fashion Avenue, The Dubai Mall. Piercings cost from Dh110

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