How Architecture & Moon Rocks Inspire "King of Cufflinks" Robert Tateossian
What started as a passion project for ex-banker Robert Tateossian in 1990—a brand of cufflinks, accessories and leather goods—can now be found in 73 countries in more than 1000 stores today. His new Lucky Me collection of jewellery and accessories, which can be instantly personalised, is available exclusively in Hong Kong and China at Lane Crawford for a limited period of time.
From signature gears to moving roulette or moon rock (yes, you heard that right) cufflinks, we sat down with the King of Cufflinks himself to find out how he got the fashion bug and how he stays sane while he jet sets around the world.
In your previous career you were a banker at Merrill Lynch. Where did you get the fashion bug from to start your own line?
I'm Lebanese, but I grew up between Kuwait, Beirut, Rome and Paris because my father worked for Kuwait Airways. He would entertain all these VIP guests, taking them shopping around Rome, but none of them spoke Italian so I would take them to Gucci, Prada and all the luxury stores to help them translate and bargain.
I first started my career in fashion doing waistcoats using expensive fabrics, but I stopped because I realized you need many people involved, pattern cutters and the like. I also wanted to travel, which is very difficult with clothing but so much easier with jewellery.
What are some of the most exotic materials you've used?
I'm constantly inspired by my travels and the things I find. Even if it's just architecture like the beautiful buildings and textures you find in Shanghai that has inspired many of our collections.
I also come across materials and stones like pieces of the moon and Mars (which launches June 2018) as well as trillion-year-old fossils that I end up putting into my cufflinks. Wherever I am, I'm constantly looking at objects and thinking about what I can do with them.
What are your most popular styles?
Our most popular styles are the gears and cufflinks that are also actual, working watches. Guys love all things relating to gizmos and cars. It was one of the first things I launched 20 years ago and I just wanted to make something that moved on your cuffs. Carbon fibre is also our best seller.
What style advice do you have for men?
I think lots of guys still think they can’t get away with wearing bracelets, but I think there’s a way to do it. I tend to be very strict in how I wear jewellery in the sense that I don’t like colours and patterns to clash. If you’re wearing striped cufflinks, you shouldn’t wear a checkered shirt, or you shouldn't wear a shiny silver belt buckle with gunmetal plated cufflinks.
Necklaces are still not huge among men unless it’s a cross or a Brazilian scapular, but fashion is cyclicle so I think it’s just a matter of time.
How do you stay sane while you travel?
I try to create a routine out of something that’s not a routine. I spend 70 days in London, 80 in Italy and 90 days in the US and then 125 days in the rest of the world.
I have apartments in all three locations and I try to stick to a routine. When I travel, I always try to stay in the same location. For example, I’ve been staying at The Upper House in Hong Kong for the past seven years, and they try to give me the same room. I even try to get the same seat on the plane.
What's the next Tateossian accessory we can look forward to?
Belts are our next big creation. The market technically doesn’t need another belt, but our point of difference is that we’re doing a belt in titanium, which is a really light material. We’re then using inserts of carbon fibre and gears from vintage watches inserted in the buckle so that it ties in with our collection. We’ll be launching in Pitti Uomo in Florence in January.
People ask me what advice I have for new designers, and I say there’s no point doing something if everybody else is doing it already. Give people a reason to buy it, and start from there.
Discover more on tateossian.com