THE LUXURY OF NOW
Rustan’s scion Nikki Huang talks family heritage and the future of the luxury purveyor.
By HANNAH LAZATIN
Rustan’s founders Bienvenido “Benny” Tantoco Sr. and Gliceria “Glecy” Rustia-Tantoco
The frequently echoed story of how luxury retail giant Rustan’s came to be is a tale that will never get old. Born in the living room of the late husband and wife Bienvenido Tantoco Sr. and Gliceria Rustia-Tantoco in their San Marcelino home in 1952, these small beginnings were but a prelude to the huge nationwide success that Rustan’s would later become.
Glecy Tantoco at the first Rustan’s store in Malate, Manila
Throughout its history, Rustan’s has ushered many of the nation’s firsts in retail—the first wedding registry, the first gift certificate, and the first loyalty program, among many others. As it's nearing its 70th year, the luxury purveyor and the dedicated family behind it have no intention of giving up its seat as the country’s leading luxury retailer.
Nikki Huang, a fourth generation scion of the clan and the founding couple’s great-granddaughter, tells The Beauty Edit about the Rustan’s legacy that her “Lola Glecy” and “Lolo Benny,” whom she fondly refers to, left behind. “What sets Rustan’s apart is the belief that every Filipino deserves the best the world has to offer. When my Lola Glecy first traveled the world with Lolo Benny and saw what luxury beauty, home, and fashion goods were like in other nations, she decided that the same level of access was not only a privilege but a right for Filipinos in their very own country,” she says. “I think this mindset has continued over the last four generations, making Rustan’s into what it has become today.”
Nikki Huang, the great- granddaughter of Rustan’s founders and the next generation of Tantocos who will one day lead the family business
This access has transcended brick-and-mortar stores and now takes up digital space on Rustans.com, where many more Filipinos can virtually visit the store and shop the best luxury items. Rustan’s has quickly pivoted to cater to the increasing demand for e-commerce and continues to make the experience seamless for Filipino shoppers by this new means. Nikki recognizes this move as “quite the feat” and “necessary” to accommodate the next generation of shoppers. “I find everything I need on the website, and am happy to see a lot more ‘clean’ brands being distributed,” she says. She believes that her generation cares more about the environmental and social impacts of products and services and that Rustan’s has done exceptional work in to this.
The Tantoco family at the blessing and inauguration of Rustan’s Makati
The values of listening to their customers and anticipating their needs seem to be a recurring characteristic passed on from the first generation of Tantocos, we learn from Nikki. She cites this as one of the greatest lessons she learned from her family. Decades ago, her great-grandparents successfully populated the shelves of pilot Rustan’s stores with pioneering items from world-renowned brands and mounted events that celebrated their customers.
The ‘70s proved to be a banner decade for the corporation. It began with the opening of the Rustan’s flagship store in Makati, where it still stands today, and saw through curated events such as its first Italian Festival and the participation of its Our Very Own Filipiniana line in an international fair in Japan.
Launch of Hugo Boss in the Philippines in the ‘90s
In this digital age, these much-awaited events also receive an online interpretation that are just as momentous. The Rustan’s Beauty Addict celebration, now on its ninth year, held its first-ever live party online last year and plans to do the same to continue sharing beauty innovations that will help beauty addicts put their best faces forward.
Rustan's The Beauty Addict through the years
Digitalization treads alongside the family’s core business values of service and forward-thinking with Nikki and the next generation of Tantocos as part of the company. She hopes to see continuous growth and innovation
in the online presence of Rustan’s, while still keeping true to the business’ heritage. To add, she has her own big plans for the company, by anchoring it on sustainable practices and continuing to expand the brand repertoire. “I hope to pursue a business model that is sustainable on all fronts for Rustan’s: economically, socially, environmentally. I’m very passionate about pursuing the triple bottom line,” she says. “There are so many up-and-coming brands on the global scene that have yet to make it to the Philippines; it is my greatest wish that Rustan’s is able to distribute them in the future.”