The construction of beauty

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Tessa MAuricio-Arriola

Tessa MAuricio-Arriola

Today’s column might seem quite curious as I will tell you that my recent visit to Makati City’s newest upscale salon reminded me of my late father. Indulge me for a few more paragraphs at this point because I assure you of a unique connection way before the end.

My superhero, a.k.a. Daddy, was a Triple-A contractor from the 1970s all through the end of the 1990s, when he retired from both government and private projects.  When talking about his company profile, I always take pride in saying that even before these flyovers stretched the length of Edsa, my dad had trumped his colleagues with the Cubao Interchange fronting Farmers Plaza.

Daddy was a manly man as contractors tend to be, what with having to be tough in dealing with department secretaries and undersecretaries, engineers, architects, foremen, and laborers on any given day. But, being the fashion and beauty writer I turned out to be, I also have to say that I am also proud that my father had always been a stickler for dressing well and good grooming all throughout his remarkable life.

Col. Fernando Antonio (right) with the London-trained creative team of Empire Salon

Col. Fernando Antonio (right) with the London-trained creative team of Empire Salon

In fact, the rest of my family had long declared that my good-natured vanity actually comes from my dad rather than my mom. Like me, he couldn’t survive a week without a manicure and pedicure, complaining that he felt his hands go heavy if he missed out on regular cleaning. Monthly too, without fail, he had his hair dyed and cut so that he looked young yet highly regarded whether at work, socials, or poker night with the boys.


Now here’s why I thought about Daddy when I visited the three-month-old Empire Sa-  lon at the ground floor of InterContinental Manila: because the owner, who very cleverly explained his unlikely venture into the beauty industry, is also a manly Triple-A contractor like Dad.

“I’ve built everything as a Triple-A contractor—from roads, to bridges, to houses and buildings, so people would always ask me why I went into the business of beauty and wellness,” said Col. Fernando Antonio as he welcomed the T-Zone and several other Lifestyle editors to his well-appointed London-themed salon.  “Besides having a brood of all girls who always go to the salon—it seemed cheaper that way,” he joked, “I believe that my experience and lessons learned in the construction industry are very helpful in managing a venture in the beauty industry.”

Interesting, right?

“Contractors like me always feel good when we see something beautiful rise from the ground,” he explained. “In the same way, in the beauty business, when you see someone go to the salon, she comes out more beautiful, relaxed and attractive.”

More importantly, Antonio talked about quality as a non-negotiable in both industries. “As contractors, our business highly depends on quality. Without it, your last project will surely be the last. And so we invest on the best equipment, well-trained engineers and competent workers to ensure that the road, bridge or building is of top quality.”

Applying the same principle in setting up Empire Salon, Antonio hired a team of UK-trained stylists and makeup artists, who had all gone to London’s Toni & Guy Academy through their former employer, and duly sent by the contractor to the Vidal Sassoon Academy for further schooling before soft-opening the salon in November 2013.

They are Sokie Mendoza, creative director; Cristina Dizon, style director; Chastine Fitcher Isidro, top stylist and chief makeup artist; Jayson Jaime, senior stylist; and Rick Ablan, head technician.

“Add to this very skilled creative team is our acquisition of top of the line beauty tools and products,” Antonio related. “Furthermore, we’ve come up with a very trendy and relaxed interior that reflects our artists’ British training, and we are also clean to a fault.”

As Antonio turned over the floor to his creative team–and allowed them to reveal a veritable who’s who client list, off the record–the T-Zone had to ask the man one final, and very vital question.

“Do you have to have your nails cleaned every week, without fail?”

When he laughed and said yes, I knew right then that Makati City’s newest upscale salon    had  landed a special place in my good-naturedly vain heart.

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