Tateossian, the 'King of Cufflinks' - ShoesandDrama.com
Ted Baker KSA

Tateossian, the ‘King of Cufflinks’

Established in 1990, Tateossian London is involved in the design and production of high-class jewels and has become internationally recognized for its high-class cufflinks.
It all started when Robert Tateossian decided to start his own business after working in the banking sphere for nearly seven years. He was 27  years old and had three wishes.
“First, I wanted to make an appearance in the world of fashion. Secondly, I wanted to be self-employed. Finally, I discovered a huge flaw in the jewelry market, and I’m referring to cufflinks. In order to make a serious impression in the banking sphere, you have to have those cufflinks,” Robert said.

The “King of Cufflinks” also mentioned that men usually had a pair of these items that they inherited from their fathers. “There was no variety in stores. An issue arose-people change 3-4 shirts and ties every season so that the colors match, but the cufflinks remain the same.”
Robert Tateossian started producing cufflinks, and the idea of having a collection of cufflinks started tempting customers. “Then, I started receiving offers for creating bracelets, necklaces and earrings. In addition to my men’s collections, they wanted me to make jewels for women as well. One thing led to another, and I started creating collections of jewels and accessories for men and women.”
The roots of Robert Tateossian: “My grandfather, Mkrtich, was from Adana. During the war, he and my grandmother Hripsime moved to Lebanon, and my father was born in Lebanon. My mother was a Palestinian living in Lebanon. I was born in Kuwait and then lived in Rome. My home is now in London” For while Midas ruled a city in the ancient world, Robert Tateossian has been called the king of cufflinks.

Today Tateossian is sold in 50 countries at over 1,000 outlets, including the finest department stores on earth: Tsum in Moscow; Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York; Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Harrods inLondon. You can buy signature sparklers on British Airways, American Airlines, All Nippon, JAL and Singapore Airways flights. There are stand-alone shops in the City and on the King’s Road, and two additional outlets opened in Bicester Village and Westfield last year. Further shops will launch in Orlando and Vancouver in 2009, and Robert is scouting for a store location in Tokyo too. It seems his kingdom stretches even further than the original ruler with the golden touch.
“It really all happened by accident!” Robert laughs when we sit down at his riverside headquarters in Imperial Wharf. After seven years working on Wall Street and in the City, “I decided I wanted to go do something on my own,” he says.
“I wasn’t quite sure what it was going to be, travelled around the world, happened to be in Thailand, came across some silver jewellery and cufflinks, brought them back, showed them to Harrods, they bought some. In a nutshell that’s how the whole thing started.”

What began as a holiday jolly for a tired-out banker metamorphosed into a business before Tateossian’s own eyes. “Six months later the buyer calls me up and is like, ‘Oh can we look at the new collection?’ I said, ‘New collection? That was like a one-off thing!'” He brushed the vacation sand out of his hair and quickly regained his head for business, hiring a team to help him produce a collection. “We started with men’s cufflinks, which still is today our main product line. Then we moved on to men’s jewellery, then ladies’ jewellery, then into watches, then into men’s gold cufflinks, then women’s gold jewellery, and now we’re going into something even more unique, which is one-off men’s gold pieces.”
Having a knack for numbers and a background in a bank was no doubt useful in the bookkeeping end of the Tateossian equation, while a degree from the prestigious Wharton School of Finance must have helped too. But perhaps even more important was a different kind of talent; thanks to an unusual international upbringing, RobertTateossian has a serious eye for style.

A handsome Lebanese, Palestinian and Armenian mix, Tateossian was born in Kuwait and raised in Italy. He studied in international schools and speaks seven languages. “I grew up in Rome, and if you grow up in Rome you’re surrounded by fashion. And because I spoke Italian, I always had to escort all my parents’ friends who were visiting from Kuwait and didn’t speak a word of English or Italian to all the stores.” While squiring sheiks’ wives from one boutique to another, he was subconsciously getting a solid grounding in how to dress, which serves him well in his current work.
Today Tateossian’s designs have unbelievably widespread appeal. The international fan base runs the gamut from Korean popstars to Eva Longoria to Middle Eastern emirs to the Queen of Spain. Back in Britain you’ll often see Elton John’s partner David Furnish in Tateossian cufflinks.?Tateossian spends about 70 percent of his time travelling the world to visit suppliers, customers, trade shows, and family and the occasional holiday, however when he’s in Britain, he hardly sets foot outside Fulham.
“I always wanted to be by the water, that’s first and foremost,” he says as we watch a barge float by. “When I worked at Merrill Lynch I had to schlep 45 minutes every day by car. I was like, ‘When I have my own business I want to be able to walk to work!'”
He’s certainly stuck to his word: “When I first moved to London, which was 23 years ago now, I bought a flat on Drayton Gardens. Then I bought a house on the Fulham Road. Originally the offices were on the Fulham Road, in fact literally diagonally from where I live now. So my whole life has been in this area. It’s so central, it’s close to Heathrow, it’s very cosmopolitan, lots of shops – I love it.”
There’s one corner of his local empire that he’s not happy with though, and it’s inside his own closet. He says he “only” has 70 or 80 pairs of cufflinks at home, so I’m curious to know how he keeps the collection in order. “You know what? It’s all dumped in those Muji acrylic drawers with dividers, all stacked up on top of each other. It’s a work in progress!” he exclaims with exasperation. So that’s one frontier at least that this sharp-dressed sovereign has left to conquer.

From City financier to “King of Cufflinks”: 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 have provided inspiration since childhood, it was a natural progression. 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.

After seven years of investment banking, Tateossian was ready to fulfill his ambition to start his own business. His creative flair, love of luxury and keen eye for detail have led him into jewellery and accessory design, setting up offices in London and a workshop in Birmingham – in the heart of England’s silversmith industry. His goal has always been to create a line of jewellery and accessories for men and women that reflected his own ethos: international, stylish, unique and uncompromising quality.

In 1990, Tateossian was created. In addition to revolutionizing the cufflinks industry, by creating the ultimate range of whimsical and unique styles for discerning businessmen, the brand is now much more than a purveyor of stylish shirt sleeve fasteners for bankers and brokers. The men’s collections now cover a wide range of accessories: from watches to money clips, rings and necklaces, the Tateossian trademark use of innovative and striking materials – such as leather, 18-carat gold and silver – is perfect for both the contemporary or classic international male.Tateossian’s range of women’s jewellery epitomizes international style and elegance: from the unique materials used to the hand-finished craftsmanship of every piece, this is haute couture attention to detail made available to a wider audience. Statement pieces, using eye-catching materials like fiber optic glass, semi-precious gems in a myriad of color combinations, miniature fresh water pearls and precious metals, never fail to delight and surprise every season.

The Tateossian brand is now a global success story, selling in 45 countries worldwide with a presence in top international department stores in London, New York, Tokyo, Moscow and across Europe and the Middle East. Stand-alone stores in London are located in the heart of the City, at the Royal Exchange; and on the King’s Road, at The Duke of York Square, in Chelsea. The brand also has a robust expansion program in the duty-free sector and sells on board the world’s leading airlines.Robert Tateossian lives in – and runs the business from – London; but he still spends much of his time travelling the world and gaining inspiration from different cultures, for his latest collections.

Effortlessly elegant Robert Tateossian looks relaxed and perfectly at home in the stylish café-bar where we meet, as he sips herbal tea from a dainty cup. A lean, fit man who admits to being a gym bunny, he’s teamed casual trousers with a semi-formal jacket and a floral shirt. It’s a winning ensemble combined with his own-label jewellery, which he wears with equal aplomb. The trend-setting entrepreneur, who speaks seven languages, is clearly comfortable flitting around the globe acting as a walking advertisement for his designs.
“I travel 80 percent of the time. I’m constantly looking to source new materials and new suppliers; I visit customers, trade fairs and trunk shows, and I also make time to explore. I enjoy constant diversity in different environments. My life has always been very international, since my childhood,” he says.
Born in Kuwait to a Lebanese-Armenian father and a Palestinian mother, Robert Tateossian was raised in Italy for the most part, then America, and also lived in several other countries due to his father’s work for Kuwait Airlines.
“Because it’s the national airline it [his job] was rather like being the ambassador, so he got moved around every three to five years. My [two] brothers and I grew up in different locations. They have settled down in the English countryside, but that’s not for me.” After studying finance and business Robert Tateossian became a banker because it was the “right thing to do”, but says he never really felt he belonged in that environment because he’s not a corporate person and wanted to “create rather than shuffle bits of paper.”
Seven years into that career, he went on holiday to Thailand which precipitated his move into the jewellery business after he picked up some silver cufflinks that he says were “nicely designed”, unlike those he was used to seeing.
“Cufflinks were limited to heirlooms rather than seen as fashion accessories. We changed that market and transformed the way people view them.” He says his “big break” came after he made cufflinks that were fully functioning watches. “People loved that design because it was novel and it really got me noticed. I just wish I could get more of those ideas!”
This led to the designer becoming dubbed the “King of Cufflinks” and the owner of a jewellery brand that has grown steadily over 21 years and is now sold in 50 countries at more than 1,000 outlets, including luxury stores such as Bloomingdales, Saks, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Harrods.
Explains Mr Tateossian: “The way we’ve developed and grown has been a gradual process, usually at the request of our customers. Back then there was not a lot of silver being used: China was not manufacturing it, neither was Thailand. So we captured that market from the very beginning. We decided to use silver because it was a material that was precious but not outrageously expensive and we wanted to attract an elite segment of the market that hadn’t been done before.”
Today, his “big area of growth” is men’s bracelets. He’s also experimenting with sterling silver dipped in white lacquer. “It’s an amazing technique and we’ve just launched a range of jewellery using it, which we’ve called Urushi (a Japanese word meaning ‘beautiful’ or ‘pleasing’).”

Despite his company’s enormous success, Mr Tateossian says he’s as concerned about the fluctuating price of silver as anybody in the industry: “Now silver has gone through the roof it’s affecting me hugely, it’s my biggest problem right now. The swings are the worst aspect because we need to produce collections and stick to the price point. [In May] I placed an order with my suppliers and bought at $46 an ounce [because I thought it would go up]. The next day the price dropped to $30. It’s just becoming really difficult to manage.”
He thinks there should be more support within the trade, but has observed that’s not the tradition. “The jewellery industry is quite fragmented. People tend to operate independently. But in times like this it would be good to work together.”
Despite the challenges, his business continues to thrive. He says that’s because he is a firm believer in constantly expanding. “You should never rest on your laurels. Always keep striving to achieve more. As you progress, your responsibilities just become a little bit more magnified – that’s a good motivator.”
He confides that his employees call him The Tornado. “That’s what I get called by my team. I think it’s because I travel a lot so I’m never anywhere more than five to seven days. Therefore, it tends to be incredibly intense when I’m in our London office – meeting with everybody in a short period of time with so many things going on. I enjoy working that way.”

Article by Marriam M Mossalli