British jewellery brand Tateossian was founded by Robert Tateossian 30 years ago, with the aspiration of offering men and women a distinctive way to express their personality and style through unique, re-defined meticulously crafted jewellery. Offering both menswear and womenswear collections that includes the brand’s best-selling pieces: personalised leather bracelets, signature mechanical cufflinks and semi-precious stone necklaces amongst others. Tateossian’s incorporation of unique materials and consistently presenting distinctive designs, allow the brand to retain its position as the global leader in men’s accessories, notably with bracelets and cufflinks.
In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Robert Tateossian, Founder of Tateossian about how he left a career in banking to launch a jewellery business which first sold unique contemporary men's cufflinks. He travelled around the world and visited retailers where his skeleton watch mechanics designs became an instant hit. Our host Peter Brooker and Robert also talk about how trademarking works, why men are now wearing more jewellery, changing trends, and how the brand has navigated through the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Hello, and welcome to another episode of The menswear style podcast. I'm Pete Brooker and Today on the show we are talking to Robert tatio Sian, he is the CEO and founder of tatio Sian, the British jeweller that's been redefining luxury since 1990. And a very quick overview of the brand tatio scions luxury products possess a unique design ethos, the seasonal collections for both men and women have a distinctive signature, constantly reflecting and reinterpreting trends in fashion. designs are contemporary, but unusual fashion forward, but timeless and the website, tatty ocn.com. And here is Robert to tell me how it all began. So basically, I was working I was my training was in finance, and I was working at Merrill Lynch when I first started out. And as a banker in the city, especially back then 3030 plus years ago, everybody was wearing cufflinks. That was actually three different things that came together. One, I identified a niche in the market, which was to come up with cufflinks that were a little bit different because back then everything was just double ended plain cufflinks with initials engraved on them very classical ones. I wanted to travel the world. And I wanted to be my own boss. So I thought, why not? Start with a small collection of cufflinks something that's contemporary, put it in a small box and get on a plane and start travelling the world offering these cufflinks to the key retailers around the world, which is exactly what happened. Very cool. Wow. So it was it was a leap of faith for you back in the day where you were confident that the Empire would build to what it is today. So there is no such thing as you don't when you start a business, you're never confident about anything. Or wondering is it going to be successful or not? It was more. It was I wanted to take a risk. And I thought I'm going to give it three years. If it works great. If it doesn't work. I'm still young enough to go back into banking. But I was very lucky on my first trip, which was to Japan. I had received quite a few orders from some of the key clients and the Japanese are very, very loyal. When it comes to brands, especially back then Monday. Do you still have clients that were with you from the beginning? Are you still see now? Yes, absolutely. A lot of them are a lot of the stores if they're still open, and the businesses still still operational. They've been clients for 30 years, which is really lovely. That's fantastic. And those cufflinks that you started out with five years ago. Are they still around? Are they in the collections nowadays? Absolutely. Absolutely. What really put my name on the map was a cufflink, which is a watch cufflink. So the idea was because I was always travelling, I was always thinking or what times what timezone Am I at. So the idea was to have two, two cufflinks. One, you could set it on New York time, the other one, you could have it on London time, and it was functional, but also something that was quizzical. So the watch cufflinks is really probably was our stock product back then. And now we do have different permutations of that initial design, and anything that's mechanical, so we developed a lot of cufflinks that had years and skeletons. All those are still in the collection, of course, permutations of that particular particular style of cufflinks. But probably one of them again, one of the most iconic cufflinks that we ever did was the bloke cufflink. And that has not changed in 30 years, and it's still one of our best sellers 30 years later. I love that I absolutely though that, can you. It's a bit of a stupid question. But can you pattern a cufflink idea like that? Absolutely. You can. You can trademark design, which is what we tend to do with anything new that we come out with that we really feel very strongly about. The problem with that is that trademark design involves filing trademark registrations in now. Before it used to be just a European community and the EU pays to fall under that now you have to do it for the UK. Eu, you have to do it for China, you have to do it for the United States. So you really have to register to design globally. And you're talking about anywhere between 6000 to 10,000 pounds to register in design all over the world. And all you need is the person who wants to copy you to just make a small change on that design, and you're not protected anymore. So we do trademark a lot of our designs that we feel very strongly about. But it's becoming increasingly expensive, and increasingly complicated. Especially now that we have to do another registration just for the UK. Oh, my God, that sounds like so much. Sounds like one of those headaches that you just don't want to see any of those papers. Just let someone else in the know do Oh, boy. But I mean, I've been in the weeds with this with a gentleman who's just recently refound a brand, Reynold sunglasses, seeds with glasses that were featured at the beginning of the Italian Job. And so he was telling me about how when you revive a brand you have you not only get the trademark, but the patent, and then there's different levels of trademarks. I think he went in at like, level nine, or something, because he's fell under spectacles and props and stuff like that. Yeah. Yeah, you have, you have to register the class, as well. So yeah, yeah. Very, very complicated. You know, that's, that's when you when you register your, your, your brand, so you have to make sure that you're registered in all the different countries in the classes that you want to be in? And it's, it's a little bit tricky, because how do you know what kind of, you know, you might, you might be doing jewellery today, and you want to do, let's say, shirts 10 years from now. And unless you register early on somebody else, and that's happened to me in China, somebody else has registered for one of the classes that we are not currently in, um, and to get to get the registration back is very, very expensive. My word sounds like an endless week of emails back and forth. But yeah, bravo is me on that one. Well, perhaps you can tell me about the I know that you do accessories for both men and women. But maybe you could just tell me about how the appetite for men's accessories has changed over the years and what changes you've seen if any permutations over the time you've been in charge? Well, in terms of the trend for men's jewellery, luckily for us, that's something that is that keeps gaining momentum and keeps going from strength to strength. Of course, traditionally, men's jewellery was just your wedding band, your watch, and a pair of cufflinks. Now, that's changed quite a lot over the past 15 years, 20 years with, especially a big trend with men wearing bracelets on that game with the metrosexual man. And, you know, increasingly with the whole gender fluid kind of trend that is currently in the market where, you know, you could have somebody wearing a strand of pearls, as well as a or a pair of cufflinks. So the market has opened up in the sense that, you know, men feel a lot more self confident in terms of how they express themselves, how they dress. And of course, with the whole casual lifestyle, you can see men wearing a lot more bracelets, necklaces, rings, or even earrings. I was just looking at someone the other day in the gym, and he's wearing like a Pearl Earring that was dangling from his ear, and it looked great on him. So I think men are not afraid anymore to to wait to wear jewellery and to start bracelets. And that trend is is one that's here to stay. And luckily for us, and you do see bankers even like for example, you know you're having you can be having lunch and in Milan and you have a banker sitting next to you wearing a suit. And he's wearing his cufflinks and you look at his wrist and he's wearing like six bracelets, one stacked on top of the other. The trend is there. And it continues. We have guys that come into our store. They're like walking into a kid's store because they're like to show us immediately the wrist and they're like look, I've got three, three of your bracelets, I want to add another one today. And they come out with wearing the bracelet. They don't even want to have it in the package. Don't want to wear it straight away. Oh, that's awesome. And when did you first start noticing this especially you touched on like the different gender and that, you know that kind of fluidity between the sexes. I mean, if I give you a quick insight I grew up and I've been in a band most of my life. I always feel like the creative elements. You know, you'll see people on stage I was on stage myself for a time and then You know, this little stuff like eyeliner, it's all stuff that the, the artists and the creative people were doing anyway. And I'm just wondering if it kind of just takes a while for, say the business class to kind of latch on to that and express themselves in the in the same way? Or is it now we're reaching a point where it doesn't really matter anymore if you come from a creative background, because this is like how you'd like to express yourself anyway. Does that make sense? Yeah, I mean, I think I think in terms of you know, there's no question that if you look at jewellery 25 years ago, it was only the rock stars and musicians that were wearing these big heavy silver ID bracelets, you know the rock and roll kind of kind of look and that's you know, that before the metrosexual man it was the metrosexual man. First it was a rock and roll movement and all the musicians and you hit the nail on the head with that and then you've got the metrosexual man. But you know, and it was used to be like really chunky, heavy, slightly golf sticky looking sterling silver pieces. Now that's evolved to that today. You can have somebody who is a musician, a banker, a painter, you know, any any type of profession wearing jewellery, so it's no longer limited to segments. So the audience's may write interesting. I know it's done on the website, there's watches as well that people can buy some very individual unique, beautiful watches. So is that quite a scary market to move into as well? How long have you had watches on the site? I've had watches for selfish reasons, because I wanted to design a watch that I could wear which I say is my my own my own design. So watches is a very tricky sector to get into as a jeweller. Because what tends to happen unless you've got, you know, billions in terms of budgets to advertise. Usually people tend to buy to buy watch brands, so they want to buy a tag or a Rolex or an omega. I want I introduced watches because I wanted to pump the watches to compliment the collection. So for example, I've introduced watches with gears on them that match the gear cufflinks or watches that have a face that's lapis lazuli, to match the lapis lazuli cufflinks, or a face which is a geel Shea of Mother of Pearl to match your shame. cufflinks in Mother of Pearl, and we also frequently offer for example, in the Middle East, they love off from giving gifts as sets. So they love to give a tough fling with a watch and a fan and a big of free. You know, for VIP gifts. Where do you Where do the watches get made? There, they get made in the I tend to use Chinese movements, and they get assembled in China into so I use Swiss movements. Primus Yeah, Swiss movements and Japanese movements and they tend to be assembled in China. And would you be tempted to do collaboration? So have you have you also done collaborations with other watched brands to kind of link those up? I've thought about it, you know, that's something that's, that's been on my mind and actually to collaborate with a watch brand with our jewellery in terms of offering them you know, cufflinks or bracelets that would sit alongside are there watches but that's something that's on the on the on the back burner for the time. Okay, well, we'll keep an eye out for that. I noticed on also the website that the stones and the various stones that come with some of the rings and my girlfriend's into her jewellery, she's into her stones, and I wanted to give her a poll later on as in pearls of information. I was hoping you could tell me what stones are popular right now. And and what is driving that demand as well. If some are more popular than others, in terms of stones, we tend to use every possible semi precious stone you can think of so in terms of Lapis tigereye, or imitate. And we also use brushes, so we use Ruby sapphires. emeralds, and to be honest, there's nothing that really stands out in terms of while we're selling more Ruby brace Ruby bracelets than any other stone. Right. But what I can tell you is that we do have increasingly men coming in to buy a Ruby bracelet for themselves, or a Emerald bracelet for themselves or a sapphire bracelet for themselves. And we've got a collection called another collection. These are like very thin bracelets with a 18 karat gold class or a silver class. And they're really nice to stack so you can wear like three or four of them on your wrist. And they don't really because they're so thin. They they don't. They're not bulky and they look good on they very easily. Look. Yeah. There's not a particular stone that I would tell you Oh, that's read the hot stone of the moment. But But it's interesting that guys are now turning their heads to stones that perhaps they wouldn't have done in the past. Absolutely. Because you would normally associate, you know, a Ruby Ruby Ruby bracelet with something that a woman would be would be after. But now the way also the way the stones are cut it they're done in a very masculine mass necessarily masculine but gender fluid way. Let's put it that way. I like the Stonehenge bracelet with snowflake obsidian Have we got is? Why is it called Stonehenge and curious and similar look? Yeah. And it's great. Just because that because of because, you know, the snowflake obsidian has all these as all these veins in it, so it looks really old. So we thought you know Stonehenge because of the stones there. And we always try to come up with something that that that that relates to the particular design, or the particular stone in this particular case, because the stone looks old. And we call it Stonehenge knife. As a favourite. I reckon everyone should be checking this out. By the way, I will leave the links to the to the website over on the show notes. Robert, thanks for taking the time out. And speaking to me today, I was going to just close with a question of how you guys coping amongst the pandemic and and how have you had to adapt to it? Oh, it definitely has not been an easy year and a half. Say I'm very thankful for all the support that we've received terms of grants for the shops that were closed. And the furlough scheme, which has helped me to continue operating with specially the Flexi furlough scheme, where most of the employees have been on furlough, and on Flexi furlough. So basically gearing up and down depending on the volume of business and the time of year that I need them to be working. So So that's been a huge help. Of course, having the retail stores closed for such a long time was was difficult, because we have to pay rent, we have to pay service charges. So that was a little bit tough. But and then in terms of the wholesale business, you know, luckily, we were able to continue servicing our accounts around the world, just by doing video calls. So that was basically the video calls were a very big help for us to continue working. And, of course, web is was the area of growth that actually, I mean, it didn't make up for the drop that we had in retail. But you know, our e commerce website has been doing very well. And that's, you know, the main area of growth that we're experiencing. So I mean, we managed to, you know, come out and we're health healthy and profitable. Because we looked at our expenses very carefully. You know, we had the government schemes that have, you know, applied for, and just focusing, you know, on the business a lot more, and not doing things that were only doing things that were very necessary. So in terms of developing the collections, we developed collections are both seasons, but instead of having hundreds of pieces, there were much tighter, much more thought out collections. This won't be anyone it's maybe any use to people listen to the podcast, but I'm wearing one of the presets. Let me see if I can get that to the webcam. Ah, okay. Cool. You know, I'm a fan This is thank you so much Peter. initials of it was a gift from a girlfriend and you do you still do that on the website? I presume where you can put initials Yeah, that looks like a bespoke elements bespoke I think, is that the proper garter it's a silver silver clasp, isn't it? Yes, that's right. Yeah. So but yeah, that's, that's our most classic. That's our most classic style. Yeah, I mean, in terms of bespoke, we do have clients that come in and they you know, we they want a specific size or a particular colour. leather, you know, we do a little, you know, we always try to accommodate them and you know, do the tweaking that makes them happy. It's great. And it's these little touches that just make it so special. In fact, this is a banner on my LinkedIn banner, because it's got my initials so people can see it already. Oh, yeah, that's, that's the other. That's the other thing that, that we're seeing increasingly, which is that people love the personalization aspect. So we do we do offer free engraving for clients. And in fact, we just got a second machine for head office because the girl in retail is so swamped with all the with all the engraving requests. So now we have a new machine, relatively expensive. For for head office, so that we can we can fader for the web orders. You know, it's a godsend to have something like that. Because it it said, What do you buy someone that's got everything, not saying I've got everything, but just buying something for somebody where you really stumped, knowing that you want to get them something personal and something will afford in it having their initials on something that they're going to send immediately and that you've actually gone the extra mile that it's not like you've just walked into a store and picked something up that you've actually went to the store you gave, you know, you had you had it specifically engraved for your, for your partner, or for your friend. And you've gone through that effort, and it just shows care. And I think especially coming out of you know, the pandemic people are very, there's there's a lot of raw emotions, people are very susceptible. And I think, you know, this, you know, especially when you're gifting someone, giving something so personal is so much more meaningful. It shows that you care, and people want to be cared for these days. Well, exactly. And I think that's the difference between just being nice and doing the bare minimum. And being considerate by being nice is just turning up to a party with a bottle of wine being considerate is turning up knowing that they like a specific wine because they'd be absolutely in a partner or cooking a beautiful dish at home kind of thing. Yeah. Getting your girlfriend to cook a dish to take. Same same. Robert, thanks again for taking your time. Enjoy. enjoy what you're doing in Austria. There's a great museum over there. I think it's a Belvedere, maybe sir. Clint in the Belvedere. In less in less the kiss the famous kiss painting by Clarice. That's in Australia. Okay. We're planning to go for a nice little hike. That's what I'm planning to do tomorrow. Okay, well, I hope you enjoy as much sun as we're having here. great talking to you, Robert. And great, Peter, have a great evening. Thank you. You too. Take care. Bye. Thank you, Robert. How about that amazing story and some amazing jewellery that you can find over at tattoo your cnn.com we'll put all the links to the show over at menswear startup co.uk make sure you're following us on the social app menswear style. That way you can stay updated to when we do new articles, new podcasts, etc. And if you want to come on the show, maybe tell us about your journey. That's how you started your brand. You can email us here at info at menswear style.co.uk Thanks for listening. Until next time,