He is often referred to as the “king of cufflinks”, and his brand, Robert Tateossian, launches close to 300 designs every year. But Robert Tateossian didn’t start out as an accessory or men’s jewellery designer.
After seven years of working with Merrill Lynch, he left in 1990 to start his own jewellery and cufflinks business. Apart from his personal label Robert Tateossian, his firm also works on private collections for Zegna, Canali and Corneliani. Tateossian tells us why you can wear cufflinks with floral shirts and gives tips on how to choose the right pair for your man. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Don’t cufflinks represent a conservative image?
Twenty years ago cufflinks were not really a fashion item. They were viewed as heritage pieces handed over from father to son or grandfather to grandson. Most were 18-carat gold or had gemstones, usually monogrammed with the family name or initials. We started out in 1990s with trying to change the perception about cufflinks. When men go in to buy a new shirt (or) tie, we want them to also buy a new pair of cufflinks. The men’s jewellery market is changing and we find bracelets, tie-clips, cufflinks and neckpieces are doing well. In fact, we have seen maximum growth in bracelets in the last couple of years while cufflinks are still going strong too.
Button up: Cufflinks are the new ties, says designer Robert Tateossian.
What kind of bracelets do men like?
Mostly, a plain or a braided leather band with a sterling silver clasp or even talismanic ones with an evil eye stone. Guys like to stack bracelets up, hence they don’t want bulky single pieces. It’s not just fashionable young boys in Europe and America, executives are driving this market.
Cufflinks are so formal. Aren’t men dressing more casually nowadays?
Yes, they are. I believe that cufflinks are the new ties. You can discard ties and still retain the formal look with cufflinks. In many boardrooms across the globe, it is too hot to wear ties. Men are letting go of their ties there but not cufflinks because they do finish your look and help you look elegant and polished.
Should you wear cufflinks only with cuffs in solid colours?
No, absolutely not. Apart from us, people who are changing this perception are brands like Richard James, Paul Smith, Etro. You can wear cufflinks with cuffs that have stripes or checks and even floral patterns. You just have to choose the right pair. With a pinstripe shirt, don’t choose cufflinks that have a stripe or a check pattern. Go for a pair that is in a solid colour. For example, with a floral shirt, opt for silver cufflinks with an animal design. With a solid-coloured shirt and cuffs, opt for a pair of cufflinks that will stand out. So on a dark navy shirt wear the globe cufflinks with a silver lining. Avoid such a pair on a shirt that has an intricate pattern. Depending on how complicated the cufflinks are, choose the shirt.
What kind of cufflinks do you think will sell in India? Are our guys likely to be more adventurous or conservative?
In India you have a lot of raw material and many talented jewellers. For anything to be successful in this market you have to be totally different; you have to offer something exciting with a twist. So here I don’t think cufflinks with gemstones will work, but the animal designs, or compass or the watch designs may work better.
What should you keep in mind while buying a pair?
Buy something you are comfortable wearing. Match it to the occasion. No point in buying Swarvoski studs if you are not a guy who likes bling. Do buy a pair of blue cufflinks—they match with navy, grey and blue suits. Mother of pearl and onyx cufflinks work well for those who are super conservative dressers. These pairs are also good to wear with tuxedos. If you have to wear a pair for your wedding, then go for a rare stone piece or glitzy one. I would do that. No point wearing plain onyx studs on your wedding day.
If you are a girlfriend or a wife buying cufflinks, ask yourself if he will like this pair, where will he wear it, what is his favourite colour and when in doubt just buy a mother of pearl or sterling silver pair.
Which new cufflinks design are you currently excited by?
I love movement in cufflinks. We have these glass cubes with enamel on the side, with different substances in them like gold leaves, silver leaves, diamond dust. When you move your wrist, these elements will move too and it can be seen.
Robert Tateossian cufflinks are available at Collective stores across India and are priced at Rs 7,000-19,000.