Tempus meets King of Cufflinks Robert Tateossian at his London Fashion Week Men's AW18 launch
The jewellery designer on his new collection and why 2018 is the year the fashion industry is finally switching it up
While London Fashion Week Men's may have drawn to a close, one designer who’s just getting started is Robert Tatteosian, the man behind the iconic British brand Tateossian. Famous for their unique style and functionality, the jewellery boutique are well known for pushing design boundaries when it comes to cufflinks, launching everything from elephants to vespas to insects to pop art, and his newest Autumn/Winter 2018 collection is no different. Because they don’t call him the ‘king of cufflinks’ for nothing.
Last year the brand partnered with David Furnish and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, giving thirty per cent of the retail proceeds of their encrusted pill pin to the foundation, raising more than £40,000. Robert said: “The message was if you’re HIV positive and you take a pill, you can be cured but there’s a stigma about that, so we asked David to design something as the symbol for the foundation. We wanted to come up with something significant so we came up with the idea of the pill.”
Tateossian’s newest lines strongly reference digital timekeeping, fossils, golden hues and mechanical elements, with signature styles reworked alongside new additions fit with rare stones, organic substances and unusual materials seen nowhere else on the market. After previewing the new A/W18 collection inside the Tateossian Mayfair boutique, Tempus joined Robert for an elegant cuppa so he could spill the tea on what he really thinks about the fashion industry, and why he believes cufflinks are the fashion staple no man should be without.>>>
Talk me through your new AW18 collection. What was the inspiration?
“Whenever we develop a new collection we look at the strong sellers in the previous season and what’s going on in the market in terms of trends. We’re always trying to do things that open up, for example our transportation collection with cars, rockets and vespas, and last season we produced an elephant with flapping ears. This season we’ve produced a cobra snake pin that actually wiggles which I think is super cool - that’s one of my favourite pieces. We’ve also finally managed to introduce something I’ve been wanting to for a while which is a digital watch cufflink. Last season we found customers were asking for cufflinks with unusual stones, so we’ve created a fossil series with ammonites, trilobites and all kinds of fossilised wood and coral - all limited to forty or fifty pairs, which I’m really excited about. I’ve also found a supplier that had vintage roman glass cut as beads so we’ve created bracelets made out of this called ‘pompeii'. We’ve introduced some belt buckles made out of titanium, which is something new for us.”
Do you have a favourite piece in your new collection?
“What really captured me are some of the limited edition pieces, there’s a stone called ‘specular Hematite’ which is like a piece of the moon. It reflects and shines and I’ve never seen something like it before - it’s a very nice piece.”
You’re known as the ‘king of cufflinks’ - what made you choose cufflinks as your honed craft?
“I used to be a banker at Merrill Lynch and everybody there was wearing cufflinks, so that’s how the whole thing started. I went into cufflinks because I saw a niche in the market back then, they were not seen as a fashion item. I wanted to be in fashion, and I wanted to be an entrepreneur so it was a combination of all those things.”
What is it about cufflinks that makes them a distinctive way to show personality and style?
“I think as a man there are very few ways you can really express yourself and show your personality, especially if you’re wearing a suit; you’re not going to wear printed trousers or a scarf to show up at a meeting. For bankers and professionals there are very few accents that you can really add, but a cufflink is a good reflection of your personality. If you’re a super conservative guy then you’re going to wear silver knots but if you’re a bit quirky then you could wear a panorama cufflink, or a vespa or a rocket or a skull, it really is an expression of your personality, it tells a lot about the person. A lot of my clients who come in and buy cufflinks buy seven at a time because for them it’s like: ‘wow this is who I am, this is my story.’”
What trends or styles do you expect to see on the runway this year?
“Last season we saw Gucci being one of the big successes, they’ve had the most profitable year in twenty years, and look at the collections - they’re completely out there. If you walk into a Gucci store it looks like a thrift shop, there’s no rhyme or reason, the theme is chaos, it’s completely off the wall, so I’m just wondering whether designers who have played it safe are now going to say: ‘I really need to explode my collection and go out there’ or whether they’re going to continue to be stayed and say ‘ok this is my signature, this is what I do, I’m going to stick to it’. Men are conservative but I think they’re loosening up a lot more, so I’m just wondering whether we’ll see relaxation in some of the looks, a little bit more showiness. If you look at Ferragamo’s new shoes by the new designer, they’ve got studs and elevated platforms. What you will definitely see is a relaxation in terms of the looks, there’s going to be more sportswear, less structured jackets, less and less formal, perhaps jogging trousers worn as suits. I think that’s the direction a lot of designers are going down.”
But the smartly dressed male is market is your target customer - do you think that will have an impact on your sales?
“Yes and no. My customer who wears a Saville Row or tailored suit to work is still there, that won’t go away. Some younger customers might wear a t-shirt under their jacket to work instead, but they’re going to be wearing bracelets because they’ll still want to express their individuality. There are two ways of expressing your individuality: wearing cufflinks or wearing bracelets so thankfully we’ve got both markets. I think it’s going to stay steady because we have our fans, our regular customers, and the fact our business has grown on both fronts this year, but having said that, those who are going casual, when they do dress up, they really dress up and wear a beautiful shirt so they’ll want to have cufflinks so that’s where we’re gaining."
What made you target Harrods for your first collection?
“When I was working [in banking] I was doing syndications, raising money for governments and banks and corporations, so I had no problem calling CEO’s of the all most important places in the world. I was always used to hitting the best, so I was like what’s the best store in London? Harrods, let me pick up the phone and call the buyer.”
Is there any celebrity or well known name you’d love to see wearing your jewellery?
“I’m not very star driven to be honest, it makes me happier to see someone walking down the streets in one of my designs. That’s not a route we’d go down in terms of paying celebrities to wear our jewellery, but maybe we should because that’s how some brands became really big.”
Do you think you ever would go down that route?
“I think it’s nice if somebody wants to wear our jewellery and come down and get it from our store, because some people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the stars to wear their stuff on the red carpet. I am planning to go to LA later this year though to see if we can do some product placement on some young actors. We have a very good brand ambassador in David Furnish because of the project with him and the Elton John AIDS foundation.”
Which are your bestsellers and do you think this is an accurate reflection on the men’s jewellery market overall?
“On the cufflink side our bestseller is a gear cufflink, that’s the design which is most copied around the world but never the less ours is still the bestseller. On the bracelet side, it tends to be the double wrap, an Italian leather woven bracelet with a sterling silver clasp. Categorically they are bestsellers around the world too, because men, unlike women, are very predictable whereas women are not. In America women want big things, while European women want smaller, dainty things, and in Germany they want more sharp and angular. Men tend to be much more homogenous on a global basis, so the bestseller in the Middle East is the same bestseller in Russia, and the US and Canada. Men behave much more similarly when it comes to fashion on a global basis than women who are more geographically different and trend led.”
What are your predictions for the next big men’s jewellery trend?
“We’ve seen an increase trend for rings. When we go to Pitti, the trade show in Florence, we’ll be taking the biggest collection of rings we’ve ever had because there’s a big request for them right now. If you go to Dover Street Market for example, you’ll see stalls covered with lots of rings - there seems to be a trend for signet rings, and rings with semi precious stones. Men tend to be quite conservative when it comes to rings, so I think that’s why they like these styles. The trend for metals I would say is more artisan with a handmade feel, satiated or antique silver rather than shiny silver.”
Tateossian AW18 collection launches March 2018