From City financier to the “King of Cufflinks” and jewellery trendsetter; it seems a mighty leap for anyone to make – but for Robert Tateossian, a man whose international upbringing and love of travelling the world over has provided design inspiration, the transition was natural.
Born in Kuwait and educated at French schools in Rome, Tateossian (who is fluent in seven languages) studied international finance at the prestigious Wharton School of Finance in Pennsylvania, before embarking on a successful career with Merrill Lynch on Wall Street and in the City of London.
Here’s more about him…
SV: Take us through your early days, your whereabouts and the beginning of your career.
RT: I had always had ambitions to be in the field of fashion and it had been a desire of mine to create beautiful jewellery and be my own boss. It was actually something that happened entirely by accident. I knew that I wanted to leave Merrill Lynch and move into fashion world, so I started importing fabrics and designing waistcoats.
It was a successful venture, but the waistcoats were taking up so much room in my tiny office that I needed something smaller. So, I began to think about cufflinks, as all the guys from Merrill Lynch had worn them, but they were never very exciting – all knots and circles. The rest is, as they say, history!
SV: How difficult was it to convince the market that even a finance guy can churn our impeccable luxurious accessory items?
RT: A product speaks for itself. Our unique and fashion forward designs talk for themselves.
SV: What were the challenges that you had to face while establishing your brand in early 1990’s?
RT: I started Tateossian 23 years ago with $5000 capital and no investors. Through hard work and perseverance Tateossian now employs over 70 people with outlets in over 60 countries. It was a challenging and exciting road. I encourage all aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams. I found that my background in business was highly beneficial to me when starting the business.
SV: What fascinates you most about your work?
RT:The constant change in this world of fashion accessories always keeps what I do interesting. The opportunity to influence global trends and to see different people from all over the world wearing our jewellery.
SV: What does a normal day in office for Robert is like?
RT: I arrive early to go through emails and then a series of meeting with each department follows. I run through sketches from my design department then sales, marketing, graphics and a meeting with my PR team. I usually will have a press or client lunch. I spend 70% of my life travelling so any day is always full on trying to fit everything I can in.
SV: Fresh water pearls, precious metals and semi-precious gems, myriad of colour combinations, you love offering that word ‘unique’ with utmost sincerity, isn’t it?
RT: We strive to combine colour combinations in an unusual way. We were the first jewellery brand to use fibre optic glass in our pieces. We work with lapidaries to explore cutting materials in a non traditional way. Thus always creating unique and special pieces and constantly pushing boundaries.
SV: How do you go about inspiring yourself to deliver un-matched products to the consumers all the time? Do you ever feel or have felt saturated in regards to your career?
RT: I’m highly motivated by anything I am exposed to; street art, fashion, and the places I travel to. I travel 70% of the year so inspiration is constant! Sometimes inspiration even comes from novels, mythology and religion. I am forever thinking of new designs to add to the collections every day! Even a wooden trellis wall covering behind a bar I saw in London has inspired one of my pieces so I never seem to run out of ideas and steam. This is my passion!
SV: From the streets of London to an emerging market in India. Although people might want to know how different both the markets are, our interest lies in knowing if there are any similarities between the two?
RT: Men seem to have a consistent level of taste in jewellery and accessories from continent to continent. Men are attracted to classic items with a fashion edge. Men are also attracted to mechanical pieces such as The Tateossian Gear Cufflinks.
SV: India can be a stiff place to work at with all those heavy import duties that our Government have!
RT:Yes we are aware of this. We will be operating on lower margins to accommodate the Indian market.
SV: Where do you see Tateossian as a brand in the Indian market, in let’s say, five years from now?
RT: Much more established in the Indian market with a corner in airports along with perhaps a standalone store.
SV: Is there any specific project you are working on right now? Or any dream project that you would want to talk about?
RT: We are currently opening a corner at Mumbai airport, which is very exciting for our Brand. We are also working on a Bloggers Create project in the UK. We have chosen 5 of the top menswear bloggers to come in and create their own bracelet. Watch this space!
Words: Sandeep Verma