Robbie Antonio: Renaissance Man of the Century

LIFE & STYLE - Millet M. Mananquil () - October 5, 2011 - 12:00am

Robbie Antonio is the man you should have met in New York.Very stylish, sharp and articulate with that relaxed and edgy kind of chic,you know that he lives and breathes New York.He also lives and breathes art: he is present in many art auctions that matter. His hangouts range from MoMA to Rose Bar.

“Yes, my favorite place would be Manhattan for its pace and lifestyle,” he admits. “But right now, I’m really keen on focusing on Manila as I am personally challenged in terms of making an impact on the city.”

Did he really have a choice? He was bred in a work-oriented atmosphere where his parents, real estate innovator Joey Antonio and wife Hilda, constantly fed him and his brothers Jigger, Marco and Carlo with challenges. As managing director and board member at Century Properties, he helps craft the company’s strategic, marketing, financial and operational goals. “As project head of our high-end projects such as Trump Tower Manila and Milano Residences interior-designed by Versace Home, I am responsible for ensuring that the projects are delivered on time and within budget.”

Robbie is in charge of the company’s international branding initiatives and coming up with game-changing concepts and projects, regardless of the target market.”I feel rewarded when my work and personal facets of my life cross.”

In black coat by Gucci and scarf by Tom Ford: “Agility makes us different from other real estate companies.”

In between bites of lunch catered by Gaita Fores in the board room of Century Properties, Robbie talks about his work and his passions.

PHILIPPINE STAR:  Century Properties has been partnering with lifestyle celebrities and business bigwigs. First, there was Versace, then Paris Hilton. Now, Donald Trump. Tell us about your encounters with them. 

ROBBIE ANTONIO: Many of our professional collaborations came about as a result of creating personal relationships with them first and discussing a deal at the proper juncture. Versace was a meeting that transpired in New York to initially discuss a deal outside Asia. As for Paris, I knew her family and spent time with her in various countries first before finalizing our project. I also try to spend time with people I do business with. 

For instance, I am in Los Angeles right now for work and the Emmys. The Hilton family invited me to dinner last night: Rick, Kathy, Paris and Nicky and I had a great time catching up. They are such a gregarious family.  During our dinner, Paris came in with tons of pegs and designs she has been working on for the Paris Beach Club of Azure. She surprised me with that. During the course of our dinner one of the vice presidents of a European nation came to our table to introduce himself and take a photo with Paris. That didn’t surpise me. I just saw Paris and Nicky for brunch a few days after our dinner over the weekend. We just wanted to catch up again before she left the country for work.

 At the helipad of their office building: “My goal is to take Century Properties to stratospheric heights.”

 We spent some time with La Toya Jackson as well. I also try to squeeze in meetings for posterity’s sake. The first morning I got here, I met one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood. I plan to do something with him in the near future.

With respect to the Trumps, I met Ivanka first several years ago in New York when I was building The Centurion. I met the rest of the family and we discussed our project in Manila. We are all very engaged with our project and I have had many lunches, hundreds of calls and thousands of e-mails with the family members. They are a one-of-a-kind cadre of people — they are all brilliant.

If you could host a dream dinner for 10, who would be your guests?

Bernard Arnault, Jeff Koons, Tom Ford, Steve Jobs, Karl Lagerfeld, Frank Gehry, Queen Rania of Jordan, Anderson Cooper, Carla Bruni Sarkozy and Maurizio Cattelan.

I want to cover the areas of business, fashion, architecture, art, politics and technology. All of which are my favorite topics.

 Who are your icons in business and why?

People who extend their lives to more than just business and who make an impact on other things that matter a lot to them. Eli Broad is one of those people. He founded two Fortune 500 companies and is now almost a full-time philanthropist and an active contributor in arts, education and biomedical research. 

 I spent some time yesterday at the Broad Foundation at LACMA enjoying his collection after having lunch with the museum’s director, who is an acquaintance of mine.

What was the best thing you learned in school? What is the best thing you learned outside school?

I attended Northwestern University where I acquired a degree in economics. I then pursued an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. School honed my analytical skills but it wasn’t until I started doing deals in my early 20s where I truly sharpened my negotiation skills and gained confidence.  

If you could promote your country, what would be your best sales pitch?

Manila as the next Manhattan.

Tell us briefly about the Milano, the Paris Beach Club in Azure and the Trump Tower Manila projects. And why we should buy them.

If you are an investor who wants a return on investment, a lover of luxury who wants to be surrounded by finery, an aspirational buyer who recognizes value — then these are the developments for you. Each building has its personality to suit these markets, reflected not just in the architecture, but also in the interiors. The Milano Residences has the bold look of Versace, Azure Urban Resort Residences through its Paris Beach Club has the fun-loving luxury of Paris, while Trump Tower Manila serves as the pinnacle of luxury.

 You are an art lover. Who are your favorite artists? You have been buying at auctions. Which have been your best buys? Do you buy art for investment or sheer pleasure?

I always try to attend auctions in New York and London because it is a hodgepodge of the most important collectors, curators and dealers in the world.

 In a way, these people make the art market. I buy art for both investment and/or aesthetic value but I always do my homework prior to my purchases. I try to ascertain what pieces should be priced at and where to find them. The evening auctions are strictly by invitation only and also turn out to be a fanfare of who’s who from various industries such  as Valentino, Laurence Graff, Marc Jacobs, Stephanie Seymour, Steve Cohen, Eli Broad, Peter Brant and  the Nahmads.

 Some of the artists I am currently obsessed with include Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Alberto Giacommeti, Vincent Van Gogh, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Anish Kapoor, Maurizio Cattelan, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, George Condo, Julian Schnabel, James Turrell, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Paul McCarthy, Anselm Reyle, Anselm Kiefer, Urs Fischer, Tracey Emin, David La Chapelle, Annie Liebovitz, Mario Testino, Steve Meisel, Steven Klein and Bruce Weber.

 For furniture I love Claude Lallane, Jean Royere and Jean Michel Franck. Art for me doesn’t end with paintings and sculptures; furniture is a very big design necessity for me.

 How do you describe your personal style in dressing? Who are your favorite designers? 

I go for quiet elegance. I avoid loud branding. I want luxury reflected in the cut of my clothes, the quality of the fabric, the tailoring.

I like Tom Ford, Hedi Slimane formerly for Dior Homme, Kris Van Assche for Dior Homme, Frida Giannini for Gucci, Stefano Pilati for YSL, Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, Valentino and Donatella Versace,

What would you never wear?

Anything that is not tailor-fitted. Aside from the brands I mentioned, I believe in bespoke apparel. Most of my shirts are.

Do you think most Filipino men  are afraid to be too stylish? They prefer to play it safe when it comes to dressing?

“To each his own” is always my philosophy. Whatever floats your boat.

What qualities do you look for in a future partner?

I’d go for one who is resourceful and clever. One who can speak at least one European language. A woman who gives thought to everything she does — from the way she looks to the way she thinks. Basically, the ideal woman for me would be someone with style and substance.

How do you relax from work?

I play tennis in the morning and after work in addition to tons of reading.

What would your ideal home look like? If you could build a unique condo of your own, what would it be?

Mukesh Ambani’s pad…. well, maybe a toned- down version.

What would you consider the best structures in the world?

Ghery’s Bilbao Museum,Meier’s Getty Center,Koolhaas’ CCTV,Child’s Burj Khalifa and Zumthor’s Vals Bath.

Who are the architects you admire and why?

I follow the works of Herzog, Koolhaas, Libeskind, Foster, Nouvel, Hadid, Gehry, Meier, Pei, Mayne, Diller and Scofidio. Also because I know most of them personally.

What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?

I hope to see I see myself continuing to assist placing the Philippines on the map.

Name three things on your bucket list.

Being a force in three categories: business, art and design.

What really makes you happy?

Effecting change.

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