Working with your spouse can be a difficult business. Not so for Julian Rotstein and Natascha Zuchouwski, the dynamic married duo behind the Tirisi jewellery brand. A mix of industry experience, hard work and, perhaps most importantly, a healthy dose of humour keeps the two on track. “We kill each other. You should see the scars,” jokes Rotstein, when I ask about their work-life balance. This is to be one of the many quips made over the next half hour by this hugely charismatic figure. “But seriously, it works brilliantly,” he continues. “We don’t close the office at 6pm and are on 24 hours a day. Yes, you fight but you can also be creative.”
As we sit chatting in the St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, the duo’s passion for their brand is obvious, as is the connection between the two. They also share an interest in fashion, something Rotstein proudly mentions several times. Zuchouwski, who is poised and soft-spoken, sports an all-black outfit, while Rotstein is more daring in a loud fuchsia blazer and white trousers.
The two are in Abu Dhabi for the launch of Tirisi Jewellery in the UAE, as part of an exclusive partnership with Al Manara International Jewellery. The brand is currently available in the UAE only in select Abu Dhabi locations, including Abu Dhabi Mall, Yas Mall, Marina Mall and Al Ain Mall.
Tirisi, which Rotstein says was created to “bring something new into the market”, was officially launched in 2010. Based in Amsterdam, the company’s bold and quirky jewellery is ideal for those who are looking for a statement piece and have the means to pick up the odd Dh14,000 ring or Dh15,000 pendant.
“It’s addictive,” says Rotstein of the brand’s mid-range, fashion-forward Moda line, which includes bespoke, interchangeable charm bracelets. “They keep coming back for more. They’re like collectables.”
Tirisi offers four lines: Moda and Tirisi Accessories, which are not yet available in the UAE; the high-end Tirisi Jewellery; and Three Times a Lady, which is named after the Lionel Richie song.
The brand’s most expensive collection, Tirisi Jewellery, centres on a selection of stunning rings featuring coloured gemstones in bold settings. Each ring is part of a wider range, allowing customers to purchase matching earrings, bracelets and necklaces. For example, the Doha line, which Zuchouwski shows me, features gem-encrusted rings and earrings in eye-popping shades of blue, purple, red and pink.
Although the brand is still fairly new, the duo’s journey into the world of jewellery started early on. As a young girl, Zuchouwski loved playing with beads and silver thread, she says, and would make jewellery pieces that she would then sell outside her home in the Netherlands.
Similarly, it was never Rotstein’s dream “to be an astronaut, policeman or firefighter”. Instead, the South African envisioned becoming a diamond merchant. Eventually, their paths crossed and they went on to create what Zuchouwski affectionately labels their “extra baby”.
The brand is now stocked in 600 locations worldwide, but there is still much work to be done, they admit. “Who has heard of Tirisi? Nobody,” declares Rotstein, this time only partly joking. Registering my surprise at this unexpected admission, he continues: “We have a way to go. A long way and we recognise that.”
But it is this same drive that led to Tirisi popping up on Al Manara’s radar. “Al Manara is an institution,” Rotstein explains. “You do not knock on Al Manara’s door saying: ‘Hi, we’re Tirisi’, because their response would be: ‘Who [on Earth] are you?’” In the end, it was Al Manara that came knocking, which Rotstein says is “exactly what you dream about”. Having visited Tirisi’s somewhat eccentric stall at Baselworld (it was done up entirely in pink and featured a 7.5-metre-high cherry blossom tree) the jewellery retailer was impressed enough to ring Rotstein personally. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Zuchouwski and Rotstein have no intention of slowing down, and recently launched a line of leather handbags as part of the Moda collection. “We lead the pack, we don’t follow,” Rotstein says with conviction, when I ask whether handbags were always on the cards for Tirisi – it seems like an unusual evolution for a luxury jewellery brand. “We want to be copied,” he adds. “It means we’re doing something right.”