The investment banker who became a cufflinks guru

Robert Tateossian was an investment banker at Meryl Lynch before he quit to start a luxury fashion brand.

October 21, 2016

Leap of faith

I worked as an investment banker at Meryl Lynch for seven years, until one day I just thought to myself that I wanted to be independent and to start up my own business. I actually started making waistcoats out of very expensive silks from Thailand.

Instantly stores such as Barney’s started stocking my products, but the demand was too large for me to keep up so I went back to the drawing board. What I had noticed during my time in London was that bankers always wore cufflinks – in fact not wearing them was a bit of a style faux pas. That’s when the penny dropped.

Men’s accessories

There has been a visible shift towards men accessorising, and the metrosexual factor has helped enormously with that. Jewellery used to only be worn by people like rappers or rockstars, but that has moved on. As more and more athletes – like David Beckham – started wearing jewellery, it became more accessible for regular guys to wear bracelets, rings and lapel pins.

The cult of cufflinks

In the past decade, men have stopped wearing ties and there has been a shift towards other accessories such as bracelets and cufflinks, especially with executives, bankers and lawyers. The type of cufflinks a man wears is a glimpse into their personality similar to the type of car they drive or the colour of shirt they wear. Men wearing mother of pearl or onyx cufflinks, tend to be a bit more conservative, whereas wearing leather or enamel pieces indicate that they are probably a bit more flamboyant characters.

No more heirlooms

We have definitely started to see more cases of people treating cufflinks as a fashion item rather than an heirloom that is passed down from father to son. Even though they are made from expensive metals and precious stones, men will now walk into our stores and treat cufflinks or bracelets as they would do a pair of shoes or a tie.

Design brain

There isn’t a single piece that we do that is not born from me, which is important, because we try to be unique. People tell me that some of our products are ‘weird’ and I agree with them! We do stuff that other people wouldn’t.

I spend 70 per cent of my time travelling so I am constantly exposed to different things and ideas. My next theme could be skyscrapers of the UAE because there is so much inventive architecture here that you could make a whole collection just replicating the landmarks.

Don’t go for gold

Men are quite stingy when it comes to buying jewellery for themselves. They will rarely spend AED 5,000 on 18k gold cufflinks, but they will spend that on their wife or on a suit. Perhaps they are worried that they will lose one of them – the cufflinks that is!

It is also interesting to note that gold doesn’t sell at all with cufflinks, especially in the Middle East, where it is haram for men to wear gold.