A woman who was known for her leadership and philanthropic work, Zenaida Rustia Tantoco redefined the landscape of luxury fashion retail in the Philippines
Last February 8, Zenaida Rustia Tantoco, Rustan’s Chief Executive Officer, passed away at the age of 77. Whether she was known as ZRT in the business industry, or Nedy by her family, the business figure devoted her life to keeping their family legacy alive.
A responsible daughter
With the pursuit of making luxury fashion accessible to the Filipino people, Rustan’s was born. Husband and wife Bienvenido “Benny” Tantoco Sr. and Gliceria “Glecy” Rustia-Tantoco, respectively, established their merchandise business in 1952. From the streets of San Marcelino, Manila, the couple’s first branch grew to a chain of one-stop retail stores for French labels such as Christian Dior and Lacoste.
At the beginning, Nedy, a cum laude graduate of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Assumption College, would watch her parents from the sidelines since childhood, accompanying them around the world as they shopped and negotiated for the retail prices of their products.
A formidable leader
Through ZRT’s leadership, the Rustan Group further expanded with Store Specialists Inc. or SSI Group in 1996, bringing Hugo Boss into the country. A year later, the establishment of Rustan Coffee Group for Starbucks, and Sta. Elena Realty, followed suit. All these were possible through the couple’s firstborn, Nedy, who imbibed her mother’s tenacity in the business industry, but also managing to add a twist of her own self to the business, as well. While she introduced new ideas for their growing consumers, their DNA of luxury retail shopping and thoughtful gift-giving at Rustan’s remained.
Outside of leading the family business, Nedy was a philanthropist and patron of Philippine arts. During her time serving the Cultural Center of the Philippines as part of the board of trustees, she raised funds for new musical instruments and the regular repairs of instruments of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO). With her major contribution, she became instrumental in bringing the PPO to the Carnegie Hall in New York.
Through the Tantoco-Rustia Foundation, which is Rustan’s philanthropic arm established in 1995, ZRT was also able to provide educational scholarship programs and sponsor concerts and art exhibits, including one that celebrated the works of National Artist for Fashion Design Ramon Valera.
“Our promise is to constantly pursue how we can continue to make the everyday special for them, and the seemingly ordinary, extraordinary.”Zenaida Rustia Tantoco shared in 2022 as they marked the seven decades of Rustan’s.
The 72 years of the Rustia-Tantoco family business is a testament to what happens when women lead—a lasting legacy not only from blood, but also by the will of Zenaida Rustia-Tantoco.
Photos: VISIONS PR