When it comes to creating remarkable luxury retail experiences, Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre are deities. Concept spaces they’ve conceived, such as AC+632 and Firma, bring together handpicked pieces of art, fine jewellery, décor, collectibles and and other precious keepsakes. It’s a luxury hunter’s den, where anyone with an eye for style and detail is welcome. “Looking for unusual objects was always a passion, from scouring the antique shops in Mabini and Intramuros to our dealers on Hollywood Road in Hongkong and other cities we visited,” begins Ricky and Chito.
Among Manila’s design enthusiasts and the well-heeled set, retail spaces envisioned by the design duo are gems where finding that elusive statement piece is concerned. They share, “[During our travels] there were also so many artists, artisans, and designers who we would meet. Their creations, together with our other finds needed a venue where they would be appreciated.” Ricky and Chito just also recently launched their first book, The Art of Window, Display and Design. A compendium of their many adventures in the worlds of style, art and design, the book takes readers through an exciting journey that authors’ forays into luxury retail, interiors and fashion. And while the last pages of the book had already been penned and printed and immortalized, Ricky and Chito hint at new pursuits. “Finishing the book made us realize that there is still so much we can do, so many ideas and worlds to explore.”
- What keeps you busy these days?
Sorting out things in the house from books to clothes, furniture and objects to determine what to keep and what to give away. It’s an annual ritual to revisit the past year or the last couple of years. We never had as much time to really stay put at home. Things were going so fast then that some books, for example, related to places we visited or exhibits we saw, were left on the shelves or even in boxes.
Now we have the time to complete those journeys of the past by having a deeper understanding of what we saw or experienced before. The same with furniture and objects that we acquired and just left in storage. We recently discovered these old carved Chinese doors that we gave a new life to with a vibrant shade of lime green. They now brighten our foyer that was looking so sad during the lockdown. A forgotten painting from Delhi also turned up at the right time: It was a Mughal version of the Nativity. When framed and positioned on an easel with a dormido, it made a wonderful belen for Christmas!
- What is it about your work or career that you enjoy most?
It’s the hunt for that elusive piece that would be the most exquisite in your collection and in the process meet kindred spirit who share your passion.
- What do you consider to be “hazards of the job?”
Not knowing when to stop looking and acquiring and not being able to let go of pieces.
- For those who aspire for similar careers, what would be your advice?
Educate and cultivate yourself so that you have a better knowledge and appreciation of your vocation or craft. Of course, go out there. Open yourself to the world, to new ideas and experiences.
- How do you balance work and family life? What are activities that enable you to bond with family?
Work should be left in the office. Now that it is WFH, you just have to set a special place just for work and keep other parts of the house off limits for work. We have a music and video room where we can lounge and enjoy our collection of movies with family or just listen to music and catch up.
- How do you unwind or rewind? Any favorite spots in your current city that you consider as your me-time haven?
We visit our chef friend, Bambi Sy Gobio of Residencia Damaso. She always thinks of new dishes to create and always loves exploring uncharted territory. When we gifted her with a Heston Blumenthal book that featured historical recipes, it challenged her to do her own versions. While dining with her, we also get to reminisce past culinary adventures we had together. After we went on a trip to Andalucia, she was inspired her to think of new takes on that region’s cuisine.
Ayala Museum in Greenbelt recently reopened and has new pieces as well as old ones that are always worth revisiting. We always enjoy the ballet and theatre productions at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, which reopened after almost two years. They also have exhibits featuring established as well as upcoming artists to discover.
- How would you describe your personal style? What are three your wardrobe essentials
We’re like peacocks, always experimenting with patterns and colors. Essentials are a good pair of shoes, an impeccably cut suit and beautifully-made cufflinks.
- What for you makes for a good investment piece? Kindly cite examples of pieces in your current wardrobe.
Pieces that stand the test of time. A family heirloom Omega Seamaster from the late 40s and a 70s Cartier tank, both classics from the past which still work perfectly and fit right in with our wardrobe today.
- What do pearls mean to you?
Pearls bring back memories of our mothers, grandmothers and sisters who always wore them. They add polish to a look, whether casual or formal. Our pearl cufflinks designed by a dear friend, Wynn Wynn Ong, always look right and never fail to get compliments. They are classics that get better with age and are truly timeless.