Mariah Lyons is the kind of accessories designer who is thinking about her customer in the most holistic of ways, inside and out, and all the way down to their toes. Lyons married her time spent as a dancer with work in the luxury footwear space and applied it to a new kind of design work—wellness design. She deeply understands the importance of our connection between our feet and the ground in relation to our overall body alignment. When you combine her deep knowledge of energy practice and movement with true design savvy, you’re left with a sparkling, chic collection of wearable art—shoes that look as good as they make you feel.
Melissa: As we navigate through this unprecedented time and things are a little different right now…how have you shifted as a business and as an individual to accommodate this new normal?
Mariah: I have actually been wanting to shift to a direct-to-consumer model for a while now and I love having my connection with our customers. At the beginning of the quarantine, people were shopping a lot as they stayed home. Then as this ‘new normal’ settled in, the decision to drop the wholesale partners and price points sat with us more and more. We decided to pivot our efforts into more of a D2C strategy that reflected accurate price points. We initially we were going to test it out and see how it goes. We thought we could always bring it back to wholesale if necessary. So, we decided to try it out and it went really well, and honestly, this year has been our best year yet. At the same time, we launched our ‘energetic wellness accessories’ that are curated boxes that encompass specific crystals and herbs, which have a lot of intentionality. For example, we came up with different kits to go with each moment—we curated a relax kit, protection kit, and office kit. These smaller gifts at a lower price point became more accessible to our customers. These kits were great because our customers could have these crystals readily accessible.
Melissa: I love hearing all about crystals and their properties. It is really interesting learning what they can do for you and having them curated for different moments.
Mariah: Exactly! That was our thought process, trying to make crystals more personal, accessible, and literally bring them “down to earth.” I find minerals are like music to me, they represent different tones. I like to curate different stones that go together with that harmonious energy within the body and the feel, so these kits are these curations of tones that help to balance out your space and body.
Melissa: That is amazing! You have such an interesting background and professional journey. Clearly, with your work at Jimmy Choo and your history as a dancer, you have always been connected to footwear and movement. How did you take the grand leap into starting Astara?
Mariah: This stemmed from being a dancer—your feet are one of the most important tools and they are your literal connection to the earth. I have always been connected in a mind-body sense. From being a professional dancer, I moved then into fashion and I was assisting some stylists. My career then shifted into PR and I worked with Jimmy Choo for a while which I loved, but it was during a time where I was dealing with some personal auto-immune health issues. I decided to take the time to do an internal deep dive with my own practices in natural healing. I was finding that I was really sensitive to EMF, likely from having two smart phones on me at all times and also being at a computer all day. I found this was really affecting my health. At that time, there was one book out called “Grounding” and I looked into how this method can assist your body in getting into a natural state of balance and harmony and how it affects your natural rhythm. I ended up getting these grounding mats to put under my computer and my bed. It was at that time that I realized that the grounding mats were great, but they weren’t easily transportable, so that was the pivotal point for me. It took a couple of years to get this together, but that was the basis of merging these worlds.
Melissa: We always forget to put our health first. I love that you took the direction to prioritize your health first and business second. What does the term “grounding” mean to you?
Mariah: There is the energetic grounding and the physical grounding which is called “earthing”— body to the earth, feet to earth. Then there is grounding, which can also be earthing but in an energetic sense it is really having a space, having a sense of self, being in the moment, being embodied— it is a state of presence and it is a state of expanded awareness. When you are grounded, you are not anxious you are not focusing on the past or present, you are grounded at the moment.
Specifically, related to shoes, Black Onyx is always a go-to because it is really grounding and helps support against EMF.
Melissa: During the past 9 months in quarantine, what crystals and shoes have you been drawn to the most? Has it changed as the months have gone on?
Mariah: Specifically, related to shoes, Black Onyx is always a go-to because it is really grounding and helps support against EMF. All shoes have the grounding component in the sole of the shoe which is programmed to have the same frequency of the earth. The crystals then add a different energetic element. The black onyx has always been a perfect work shoe as it is really protective and great for stress relief. We also developed a malachite mule this year in August. Malachite has been coming up a lot this year and it helps to release wounds of the heart and is a great stone for transformation, it helps release sadness, trauma and helps open the heart and moves through transition and transformation into a new space. Rose Quartz is always a really balancing and harmonizing stone and that has been consistent throughout. As for the crystals, we have been working with Smokey-Quartz a lot, it is great for transmuting dense frequencies and is great for stress relief.
Melissa: We noticed that all of the shoes are open-toe, is that intentional?
Mariah: It is the first wave of design. We started with a whole collection and decided to pair it down and start with one style, done a couple of ways and we are able to tweak this. When I first launched people were not really talking about grounding, it was not on the radar at all. I led with the crystal component because I found this was something that people were able to understand a little better, we are more familiar with working with minerals. It was not until this year, that we have found more people who wanted to hear more about grounding and understanding it. We are definitely standing out in more categories and different styles but at this point, this was the first wave we started with.
Melissa: What are some of your daily particulars that you put on every day?
Mariah: One of my good friends has a jewelry line called Indigo Unveiled and I wear a lot of her pieces every day, she is a pure alchemist that works with a lot of natural gemstones and also sacred geometry and different ancient symbols. I also bought myself a gold rose necklace that I wear all the time. In terms of jewelry that is it, lots of simplicity and gold.
Melissa: Now that the winter months are officially approaching, what’s next?
Mariah: Yeah! I have been working more on creating more curated boxes and kits. We have a winter box coming out soon that will allow users to tune into nature’s cycles. This winter box will have specific herbs, a meditation oil, and a really beautiful crystal. Working with specific herbs and minerals each season to help support winter blues. The winter is a time where we typically go inward and reflect on the previous year and what you want to create the next year, so we wanted to work with that energy to support people for the next year. I also started doing some crystal healer training programs which I was doing on my own, but we decided to do this through Astara this year. I have been calling these our digital collection. We have launched some meditations and programs that go with the shoes, our “Open To Love” program coincides with the Rose Quartz. We were doing a lot of digital retreats as well which we will continue doing through the winter months. Ultimately just building out the educational component of the brand as well as continuing to be a research for people in this space.