High Jewellery

Meet the cufflink king: how Tateossian started with a novelty collection and became a major player

  • Robert Tateossian launched his brand in 1990 after spotting a gap in the market
  • His cufflinks, bracelets and necklaces are now sold in 1,000 outlets in more than 70 countries
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 8:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 8:47pm

With streetwear and trainers dominating men’s fashion, it would be easy to assume that the market for cufflinks is all but dead. Jewellery designer Robert Tateossian believes otherwise.

The British-based former banker launched his brand Tateossian in 1990, when he saw a gap in the market for novelty cufflinks that were fashionable and expressive. He started out with a small collection made from sterling silver – which wasn’t very common at the time – and quickly gained a cult following in Japan, followed by other markets, including Hong Kong and China.

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Today the brand produces more than 100 new styles each season and has over 1,000 points of sale in more than 70 countries. It’s one of the biggest players in the industry, producing its own collections as well as men’s jewellery for Italian label Ermenegildo Zegna.

“The market for cufflinks still exists but it’s not growing. For us, however, we are getting a bigger market share because it’s not viable for other smaller brands to continue. You won’t believe it, but cufflinks still account for 50 per cent of our business. At stores like Selfridges [in London] we are up 38 per cent from last year.

“Men still need to wear them for their first job interview, date or wedding. They still want to look great, even if it’s not all the time like before,” he says.

Tateossian says his brand’s success comes down to the designs of its cufflinks. Expect architectural and mechanical elements combined with a touch of whimsy (a nod to the brand’s British heritage). His choice of materials is also unconventional, ranging from leather and wood to carbon fibre and ceramic.

“So much time goes into research and development – in fact my biggest problem every season is not coming up with new designs, but editing them down! I’m always looking at everyday things and seeing how they can be translated into cufflinks. I love figuring out how I can miniaturise certain shapes and then make them from materials that haven’t been used before,” he says.

Highlights include his Tempus collection, which is based on vintage gears and features transparent cases housing vintage skeleton movements. Other pairs house complicated watch movements like the tourbillon.

The classics come with sleek design details. A pair of signature silver round cufflinks, for instance, are accented with the brand’s diamond pattern and a thin line of enamel.

Tateossian expanded its offerings more than 15 years ago, when a Japanese client requested an alternative to the Chrome Hearts chunky silver bracelets that were ubiquitous at the time. It wasn’t long before Tateossian bracelets became a hot item.

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“I’m all about the bracelets, although men are still getting comfortable with the look. All our bracelets are done in a workshop in Italy, and we’ve moved into very thin bracelets made from silver interwoven with thread and beads in various materials.

“I love it when a man stacks his bracelets. I recommend they experiment with different gradations of the same colour, but mix three different elements together – leather, silver and beads,” he says.

Looking ahead, Tateossian is expanding his collections of necklaces and rings, two styles he says work well with the current streetwear trend. He says pins are making a comeback, as is the “rustic” look.

“What I love about fashion and men’s jewellery is that there are no limits. People are open to new materials, like this antique silver look that is everywhere. In the old days, no one wanted to buy a silver item with scratches on it, but now it’s the complete opposite. Everything looks as though it’s been sourced in a flea market. The artisanal is making a comeback for sure,” he says.