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5 Minutes with... Atlas Accessories

by Becky Elliott

Marrying natural and organic materials with quality craftsmanship, Atlas Accessories presents a collection of modern jewellery pieces rich in symbolism and meaning. With each piece telling a story — your story — these adornments are defined by a unique energy, historic connections and a sense of consciousness. Handcrafted conduits for self-expression and positive action, all Atlas Accessories imbue wearers with a sense of empowerment and purpose. We sat down with founder Gregory to learn more about the brand.

How did Atlas Accessories begin?

Up until 55 I was in investment banking and as a chief strategy officer building startups. At 55 I decided I needed to do something for myself and literally stumbled into making jewellery. I had very rough designs that I had cobbled together and as a mini project while trying to think about what to do – I decided to find a craftsperson to help make my concepts into proper jewellery pieces. This was literally the first step – me doing something I loved, creating something beautiful with meaning and it naturally and luckily evolved out of that. People started asking where they could buy them – by seeing the ones that I wear (see photo) and it sparked the idea of Atlas. 

Have you always been interested in fashion?

High school in the 70’s was a very different time, but I definitely always had an eye on fashion – probably more about design than fashion for me. I am a little old school and like when people make the effort to dress up a bit and fashion is an amazing canvas for expression and I enjoyed that – whether it was a leather jacket with fringe that I loved or being super excited when I bought an Armani suit in the 80’s – it was green– and I remember as captain of the tennis team in high school being a lot more concerned about tennis outfits for tournaments than being nervous about the match!

What have been the highest and lowest points on your journey so far?

Launching a company right before the pandemic has brought some crazy volatility to this journey – more than I think a normal start-up would have had to contend with. The lowest point actually hit twice. Most new fashion, or most start-ups, rely on in person sales in the first year or two to create a stable foundation. The pandemic completely nullified that option for us after getting going fall 2019.  Twice we came close to having to shut it all down, each time there was about a month where we had to sit with the very real choice of having to give in to what felt like letting something die. And without a doubt the highest points have been when I get to discuss symbolism with a customer and you hear their story, which has meaning to them, and there is this connection that happens, you feel like you have helped someone express something, or tell their story. Hearing other people’s stories I think are the highest points for me as they basically fuel the passion and re-confirming that passion is always a high point.  

What are the morals you run your brand by?

Every business I have built has been based on the concept of ecosystem design. Creating perfectly balanced exchanges that allow everyone to thrive including treating the planet as a stakeholder in that ecosystem. This requires respect, curiosity, self-awareness and accountability and I hope this is reflected in our brand values - Story, Connection, Legacy – I would sum Atlas up as these 3 things. Codifying memories and empowering individual storytelling to create connections using materials that are sustainable and reduce disposability. Striving to ensure that every action has a tangible and measurable positive impact, ensuring a better future with each action and transaction. 

What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?

The Token Collection was created to mark a significant moment or memory – I wanted to give someone a permanent reminder of something, a piece of that memory that they could keep forever. I took a specific stone that was connected to the event and I had it carved into one of our oval beads, then strung it on a single thin piece of leather. The idea was that a single oval on a thin thread made the oval the centerpiece, a singular point or element  – in giving it to my friend it became a “token” of the memory. 

How would you describe your customer base?

Atlas customers are curious about life and experiences. I think they are experiential learners and understand that success and saving the planet are no longer mutually exclusive and that success should power positive change. This is why Atlas is committed to treating the planet like a stakeholder and using our success to give back by donating 5% of our gross revenue to help to save and permanently protect endangered habitats. Every purchase has a positive impact on threatened environments as well as the wildlife dependent upon them. It is our strong belief that success should power change and that every action should have a positive impact. 

Do you ever struggle to stay inspired?

Not really but I think that is because I design based on life experiences. Every design was inspired by a singular and significant life experience. The Accent is a great example. I came across a baby royal python in Battersea Park when I was thinking about setting up Atlas (several pets had been released illegally). In Native American tradition, an encounter with an animal, especially out of context, is a clear message of import, and snakes represent the power and ability to transform (amongst several things). I had made some prototypes and was teetering on the fence about setting Atlas up. After the experience with the python and reading up on the symbolism, I made the decision to take the leap. I cancelled the few consulting gigs I had and put absolutely everything into committing to making Atlas happen. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, as I had built lots of companies for other people, and although this was something I was passionate about I had no clue about the industry or if it would even work. I was really unsure and I basically took it as a sign to take the leap. I had followed similar logic twice before in my life and they both led to amazing things, but at 55 years of age, the drop seemed that much more perilous in some way. That is a long way of saying that my inspiration comes from these kinds of events. The first thing I did was spend hours googling materials that would work for the snake experience and have meaning.  I immediately wanted to make a bracelet to mark the event. I came across the vintage snake beads, which were just perfect because of their story and look, and the Atlas Accent with black snake beads was born. It not only commemorates that decision and unique moment but serves as an ongoing symbol of transformation, which is a constant in life. 

Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your designs?

Jeremy Jauncey – I think he is the great example of the embodiment of conscious success and he actively strives to make a difference. A great role model for future generations. 

Do you have a mentor?

I have been very lucky to have several mentors and to also mentor many younger people. I am a big believer in intergenerational mentoring and interdisciplinary mentoring, it’s a great way to combine the benefits of diverse perspectives, creating something greater than the sum of the parts. 

If you could only wear one piece from your collection, what would it be and why?

That is a tough one since they all connect to very significant memories. If I chose one, it would be the Aeon, with brown amber and bison. The anchor to that design is a love lock sitting on a bridge in Wroclaw, Poland, still to this day. 

Is there another designer whose work you particularly admire?

The designer I admire the most is Zaha Hadid, she was even described as a designer of structure and space (vs the moniker architect) and that is what I admire, the harmony and beauty of design born of purpose. If you look at her jewellery – it is just incredible, pure art and amazingly elevated pieces. You just feel there is a story and depth behind each design and it makes you want to know more – the magnetism of her designs are palpable.  

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

 “count to 10” – honestly it is the best advice, so simple but so powerful. Almost any situation benefits from taking a beat – but that is not easy to do whether you are overexcited or anxious – but this is a super easy thing to remember and also easy to action – and almost without fail it will slow your breathing and give you perspective allowing you to enjoy the moment even more or to shift and manage a difficult situation. 

What drew you to Wolf & Badger?

The diversity of smaller brands and designers, it felt like a great ecosystem and I wanted Atlas to be part of that. 

Where do you see the brand in 5 years? 

I would love to see Atlas at the forefront of changing how fashion and jewellery brands work – giving back off the top with no creative accounting as a tangible commitment to change, recognising that the more you give the more you create and get back, as well as promoting a more equitable distribution of profits across the entire ecosystem.