words mary von aue | images antony doucet
Even though Antony Doucet is from France, he’s a local in Istanbul. Name a neighborhood and he’ll tell you the best things to see, eat, and hear. When speaking, he frequently interrupts himself to mention a piece of neighborly advice that has suddenly come to him. “And, of course!” he blurts when we talk about travel, “remember to check out the La Moda Collection next time you’re in Fatih. Best tailor-made luggage. You’ll love it.”
His suggestions are always nuanced, taking into account the cultural and historical backdrops of each street he explores. Asking for restaurant recommendations means you’ll get a list factored not just by the scene but also the season. This kind of intricate knowledge of the main streets and back alleys of Istanbul is put to good use at The House Hotel Collection, where he’s a brand director.
The collection got its start when three friends—Canan Özdemir, Ferit Baltacıoğlu and Ramazan Üren—wanted to create the local cafe that Istanbul was missing. In 2002, they launched their own coffee shop inside an apartment building in the fashionable Tesvikiye neighborhood, and so began the appropriately (if not too literally) named House Cafe. In April 2010, they opened their first hotel, located in the historic 1890s Zenovitch Apartment. A chic lounge bar, which overlooks the medieval stone Galata Tower, sits on top of a nineteenth century edifice, becoming an appropriate place to toast to Istanbul’s multifaceted history.
In addition to their new hotel in Cappadocia, the House Collection now appears in new venues in Istanbul: Karaköy, Nişantaşı, and on the Bosphorus. As the collection expands, Antony’s roots continue to dig deeper into Istanbul soil. He’s heavily involved with The Lokals Karaköy, a charity that tries to preserve the texture of the neighborhood.
Karaköy has become a local hotspot thanks to the influx of the creative class. What was once a port town that struggled economically during the twentieth century is now host to boutique restaurants and art galleries. It’s the kind of gentrification narrative that could be compared to—dare I say it— Brooklyn, where the glamour of the rising creative class overshadows the community that has been pushed to the fringes.
The Lokals develops various initiatives to not only preserve Karaköy’s history as it undergoes these changes, but also to enable the local communities that have been there for generations. Antony supports the organization that gives free consulting to the small businesses that have been there for years, helping them to adapt to the new competitive markets. A transplant from the Loire Valley, his passion for the city’s history has guided his investment into the city’s future.
where do you live — Istanbul
favorite neighborhood dinner — Istanbul is by the sea so my favorite dinner changes all the time. In the winter, I love Karaköy Lokantasi, but in the summer, I’d say House Café. There are also so many by the sea; it really depends.
luggage — For big travel, Samsonite. I also have a piece of luggage that was tailor-made in the Grand Bazaar in Fatih. The handle, the fabric, every part of it was custom made in Istanbul. I highly recommend it! Next time you’re in the Grand Bazaar, look for the La Moda collection.
gadgets — If I can use the term flexibly, I’ll say the latest issue of Monocle. Also, how about chocolate? Can chocolate be a gadget? Oh, and my notebook—the most important gadget.
favorite charity — Lokals Karaköy. The foundation is devoted to preserving local culture in a neighborhood that is changing rapidly because of tourism and gentrification. Lokals celebrates Karaköy’s history with new art, film, and events. They’re bringing people together.
favorite airport — I love the Departures terminal of Istanbul Atatürk Airport. The Turkish Airlines Lounge was designed by Autobahn Architecture, and it’s one of the most beautiful lounges I’ve seen.
home is...France, specifically, the Loire Valley where I was born.
where would you like to live — Well, I am currently happy in Istanbul, but after living in Paris and Istanbul, perhaps I should give London or New York a try.
where & when were you happiest — On a sail boat on the Aegean Sea with no Internet connection.
what do you consider your greatest achievement — Professionally: Well, if you consider that one of my first jobs was as a “runner” at the Hyatt Regency at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, and my position now is brand director of the most successful luxury boutique hotel group in Turkey, that’s not bad. Personally: Despite being away from my family and my friends in France, I always kept strong relations with them.
what is your current state of mind — Busy and stressed, but in a good way!
how many trips to you take a year — Sixteen
how many of those are vacations — Five
without traveling, you relax by — There are the usual ways to relax: exercise, gym, or even rooftop drinks. If I really want to escape and relax, I like to go to Princess Island. Next time you’re in Istanbul, you should see it. You can get there by public ferry. There are no cars on the island, but you can get around by horse and carriage. Truly, it’s another world. It’s only an hour away from me by boat but it feels like an alternate universe.
won't board the plane before/without — Check my phone, maybe send a text to loved ones.
take off routine — I don’t have take off routines the way I have landing routines.
first thing you do after landing — First thing I do when I land is switch on my mobile, stop the roaming, and check Instagram!
travel is...my way to escape.