by Cedric “BIG CED” Thornton
December 6, 2012
Working in the music field typically unleashes creativity and passion, surrounded by talent and ability, and usually showcases the best the industry has to offer. This also applies to the people working behind the scenes who are usually equally or more passionate about working on the talent and product in front of them.
As a manager in this fickle world, Anton Barnes found a place where he felt comfortable and built a successful career from there. But as circumstances changed, so did his mindset and goals.
Gifted and well-connected, he turned his attention to a field completely unrelated to music, but one that required the same passion and determination to create a new path.
After being approached several times about collaborating with future partner Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers, it was time for Modern Class Design.
BlackEnterprise.com: With your background in the music industry, why did you decide to start a design company?
Anton Barnes: I’ve always been a creative person. I entered the music industry at a time when I felt artists were allowing more of their creativity and individuality. The industry started losing its talent and eventually I lost the desire to continue my career in the field. However, during my travels while working in this industry, I was able to visit various art galleries, museums, and exhibits, which sparked my interest in exploring my own creative path.
What makes you want to do it so much?
In fact, it’s what happens at the end of a project that motivates me to start a project…the look on the client’s face, the excitement, the gratitude for what has been accomplished. It’s very exhilarating to see something you’ve created from start to finish take shape.
I know you appeal to athletes and high-end customers, but is this by design?
My first big budget home design contract was for an athlete. Once that mission was completed, more housing-related work placements were made for people working in that field. So, to answer your question, I have created a client list of athletes and people in the world. However, I believe that myself and Modern Class Design are diverse and able to work with clients with a variety of budgets.
How did you end up partnering with Vernon Davis?
I was approached by Vernon several times to start a company, but it wasn’t until the third time that I decided to move forward and co-founded Modern Class Design.
You’ve worked with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Jay-Z, to name a few. How has your experience working with artists of that stature shaped the way you do business?
Their artistic talent fuels my passion for creativity in my field and makes me want to push creative boundaries. And working with such prominent people has strengthened my ability to maintain a professional demeanor, regardless of the client’s position.
You are also involved in philanthropy. What makes you want to donate? And are there any programs you work with or plan to work with?
I was inspired by my father, who started several successful businesses and believed strongly in giving back to the communities that supported him. I won’t go into details, but I am currently working on a project to help build schools in developing countries.
What’s unique about your company is that you’re both black men from different parts of the industry, what qualities do you two bring to the table that help complement your business endeavors?
Our business partnerships with athletes have allowed us to learn about certain trends and design styles that are popular within their communities. And my creative eye and knowledge of art went hand in hand with this to help expand my client’s interest in art. And an important aspect of our work is exposing our clients to art related to their respective cultural backgrounds and incorporating that into our designs.
What are your long-term goals for your business and yourself?
My goal and that of Modern Class Design is to continue to grow our company. I am also working on writing several books. One is about interior design and the other focuses on my life and the challenges I faced and was able to overcome. I’ve also been talking to TV producers about creating shows around my work at MCD.