The founder of eponymous cufflinks and accessories brand Tateossian London on speaking seven languages and his ‘conservative contemporary’ style.
Born in Kuwait, Robert Tateossian started his career in the world of finance before setting up his own cufflinks brand. Twentry-five years later, the brand is sold in more than 70 countries around the world, giving its international founder a chance to practise speaking in seven different languages.
How do you feel when people call you the “king of cufflinks”?
A term that was originally coined by [journalist] Nick Foulkes for an article in Departures magazine a few decades ago – it is quite humbling. However there are many very talented cufflinks designers out there.
Is it true you speak seven languages?
Yes it is true. English, French, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, German and Portuguese. I was lucky to live in many countries growing up. I do not have a favourite – it is more the mood of the moment and the situation.
You worked in the City of London before starting your brand – how was this?
Working in the City of London in my early 20s was very exciting. I had a lot of responsibility at an early age, it gave me discipline and structure – most importantly it helped me become analytical. I left because I wanted to break away from the world of finance and the corporate world and experience being an entrepreneur and the world of fashion and design.
Where did the idea of Tateossian come from?
I identified a niche in the world of cufflinks. I designed a capsule collection and started knocking on doors in key cities around the globe.
How did you go about founding the brand? What were the biggest struggles back then?
Building the brand was a step by step process. Participating in trade shows around the world, working with the press, delivering a superior service and a unique product season after season. The biggest struggle was working on my own after being in a big organisation and the anxiety of generating enough sales on a monthly basis to keep cash flow going.
What are your favourite pair of cufflinks?
I have too many to list – it really does depend on the occasion and the time of day.
How involved are you in the design process now?
Very intricately involved – I still get involved in the design of every piece of jewellery from start to finish. The process starts with my creative director sitting at the beginning of every season to design the collection and I then follow every step of the way the ‘birth’ of the piece.
You sell in more than 70 countries. How does it feel to spot your brand on your travels?
We are actually now 71 – Angola being the latest. I love visiting stores that carry our line anywhere I travel and enjoy meeting the sales staff, training them, doing merchandising and understanding the local consumer.
You also have four stores in London (Royal Exchange London, Conduit Street, Sloane Square and Westfield White City). How did it feel when you opened them?
Each store is a labour of love. They are very personal – often decorating them with pieces from home – very expensive, as they are always self-financed, but very fulfilling when you walk by them.
What is your career highlight so far?
Realising that we are a brand with a presence in the best stores in more than 70 countries that started from zero 25 years ago.
And career low point?
I cannot point to a low point. You have challenges along the way but you need to be stoic and overcome them – there is no choice when you have responsibility for more than 70 employees. You need to just keep going forward.
What’s next for you and the brand?
Continue our expansion of product lines, adding more pieces to our semi precious stones and gold collections and introducing leather products such as bags and totes for men next year.
What would we find you doing in your spare time?
I love travelling, exploring places I have not visited – Borobudur in Central Java was my last expedition – or at home cooking and entertaining friends.
What’s the last fashion item you bought?
Swimming trunks with printed palm trees by Orlebar Brown.
Where are your favourite places to shop?
Milan, as that is the place where you can see the biggest selection of Neil Barrett, Etro and Hogan.
What’s the most expensive item of fashion in the your wardrobe? How often do you wear it?
A Z Zegna ponyhair bomber jacket, which I wear for special occasion – also because it tends to be too hot to wear indoors and too cold to wear outdoors.
Who do you admire in the fashion industry?
Too many to list – there are so many talented designers out there – but Alexander McQueen was simply genius.
If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Neil Barrett stretch five-pocket jeans – in black with a white shirt.
How do you describe your personal style?
Very individual – conservative contemporary, if it does not sound too contradictory, with dashes of colour.