Every business has a story. The story usually comes from a vision and a determination to succeed and overcome obstacles – Tamara Comolli is the perfect example of this. A spirited and beautiful lady, Tamara’s story is one of perseverance as she strived to realize her childhood dream of creating her own luxury jewellery business. Here, we introduce the lady behind the story and the story behind the business.
Strong yet soft-hearted, Tamara has a distinct passion for all things natural, and ‘freedom’ is a word that frequently punctuates our conversation. When you hear Tamara talk, it is evident that she stands for equality; everything in her world is driven by a passion to show others through her creativity that it’s possible to express individuality and be unique. Tamara’s world is one where we should all be comfortable not following others but leading with our own beliefs and visions, an attitude very much shaped by her upbringing in Spain, Gibraltar, France, and Germany.
“I am from the generation of big change,” Tamara explains. “As I grew up, everything was male-driven, but I saw things changing during that time. My mum was restrained by daily family life; taking care of the children and supporting my father in his career of managing a casino was her entire world. She would dress up in the latest trends and wear stunning jewels, but I felt that, while she looked beautiful, she looked like everyone else fitting into that world of luxury that was very dictated. Where was her identity and her expression? Back then, everything seemed so staged.”
Tamara was born with a free spirit that gave her the courage and determination to fight for what she wanted. All her life, this was to create beautiful things for others to feel at one with. “I remember thinking I wanted children and to be married, but I also wanted to be free and independent. My father was very serious about education and, when I was twelve years old, he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I replied that I would marry, but I also wanted to be independent. The word independence back then was not really spoken about much, but mine was a pioneering generation and things were changing.”
Tamara’s passion has always been gemstones, and she fondly remembers when she was a young girl, watching her mother putting on her jewellery “like a princess getting ready for a ball”. She explains, “If I am honest, I didn’t really like the pieces she wore, but I loved studying them and playing with them. My mother used to give me and my sister her old pieces and I found myself collecting them all and then recreating my own designs – I would spend hours feeling the stones and adding things.”
This early experience has arguably shaped the pieces that she creates for her growing global customer base. Synonymous with understated luxury, as an international jewellery brand, Tamara Comolli has evolved over the decades to over 7 outlets across mainly the US and Europe, but she has never deviated from her early ethos. “I always want my jewellery to reflect a natural, casual lifestyle. You shouldn’t have to play a role in life, but jewellers need to speak to you and feel beautiful on the skin, matching your personality and reflecting who you are,” she says passionately.
“I think women need to be daring with a clear belief and trust in their instincts.”
The gift of an idea
A pivotal moment in her story was when a boyfriend gifted her a leather bracelet with a clip in silver and small rings around the leather that could be moved around. Although it was fun and unique in design, it wasn’t particularly valuable, which gave Tamara the idea to combine this innovative, sentimental style with a higher price point. She produced some beautiful, original pieces which she put on sale in a friend’s boutique – immediately selling out. This early experience further fuelled her passion for becoming a jewellery designer, but her father, however, had different plans for her.
“My father called it nonsense and didn’t want me to follow my dream because he couldn’t understand the passion. He also knew business and that it doesn’t happen without a structured plan, so he insisted I study. At the time, it was frustrating, but I listened to his advice and studied economics, and, later on in life, I was grateful for his direction. However, my creative drive didn’t disappear. I crafted jewellery in my spare time, which I wore and others noticed; I called them ‘conversation pieces’ as they caught everyone’s eye and became a talking point.”
Another turning point in Tamara’s career came when she presented to a team of corporates and realized that she was teaching the group things that she felt she didn’t know herself. Characteristically hard on herself, at that moment, she describes feeling ashamed that she was advising others on how to do things that she had never done. Soon afterward, she quit her job and shifted her career trajectory to work in advertising and marketing and learn branding skills. During this time, she wrote a concept and a business strategy paper on how to build a brand. Without even realizing it, she was ready, and the Tamara Comolli brand was on its way.
The next few years were far from plain sailing, but she explains with her characteristic energy and determination, “You do go through extremely tough times, but you must believe and never give up.” She dug deep to keep moving the business forward, but money was a constant stumbling block. It was only due to her knowledge of business that she negotiated a very risky deal, borrowing enough to be able to launch her first range of Tamara Comolli jewellery. Without any money of her own, she sold her car and, with the proceeds, travelled to Italy to discuss a prospective order from a big client. With only 120 days to repay her huge loan, Tamara was pressured to cut a deal but the client wanted to buy her products and brand them with their name. Tamara refused, knowing it could be the worst decision she had ever made. “I remember thinking, ‘What am I doing!? I will owe thousands and I just lost this deal’ – I was finished before I began. But something in my head said, ‘Just jump!’ So, I did! With no parachute but a lot of trust and belief.”
Tamara’s father still did not appreciate her vision and, sadly, had refused to support her. When he became gravely ill, she decided to create something in her range with a roulette piece as a tribute to his lifetime working in the industry. At this point, her father had lost the ability to talk through illness, but she took the brochure to her father and showed him the piece. She saw the pride on his face and knew that through it all she had made the right choice and felt immense pride.
“I think women need to be daring with a clear belief and trust in their instincts. If you don’t have the belief you won’t make it. It takes extra effort to make it work, but it’s all about the passion and the vision. I followed mine, and at times it was tough, but I never doubted the end goal was in sight.”
Inspired by life
Tamara’s story is laced with these themes of determination and spirit, and her work is deeply influenced by the stages of her life. Each chapter created the pieces like a jigsaw until it was complete. Her stunning ranges are all inspired by the ocean, particularly her time living by the sea in Gibraltar, and commemorated by her logo – a drop of water. Watching her mother’s dependence on others similarly inspired her range, offering women freedom through choice. Whether you want an expensive piece with platinum and diamonds or a bracelet with wooden beads, every single detail is created with love and inspired by the eyes of a young girl, now a beautiful woman, still believing in her dream of giving back freedom through jewellery.