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Big girl shows off bigger-than-life style

Fashion royalty Florence Benitez Johannot also comes from a line of educators

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PHOTO BY PAELO PEDRAJAS

Just in time for the holiday season of donning our gay apparel, and anticipating the extra weight gain of Christmas sweets and spreads, fashion, like our universe, is expanding.

Think big, like the embellished floor-length caftan, the boxy tunic over stovepipe trousers, and the empire-cut dress with glitter and embroidery.

Rustan’s flagship in Makati has all these chic items. Perhaps it is the natural full circle of fashion—after unforgiving years of body-fit silhouettes, it is time to loosen up, so to speak. Google the biggie looks of Yves Saint Laurent and Kenzo in the mid-’70s, and you will see how the rise of oversize is feminine, elegant and so au courant.

Modeling this new look is beautiful Florence Benitez Johannot. She is the 5’10” daughter of Petty Benitez, who was a top model in the ’70s of the illustrious Benitez clan, who pioneered the Philippine Women’s University on Taft Avenue.

PHOTO BY PAELO PEDRAJAS

Name: Florence Helena Benitez Johannot

Age: 19

Parents: Daniel Henri Johannot and Purissima (Petty) Benitez-Johannot

Where did you attend high school?

Institut le Rosey in Switzerland

What are you taking up in college?

This is my first year, and I’m reading sociology and social anthropology with a minor in psychology at the University of Edinburgh.

Tell us about your mother’s family.

PHOTO BY PAELO PEDRAJAS

My mom comes from a family of educators. Quite a contrast to my father’s family, and a lot like the cast of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,”  my family is large and exciting. Scattered around the globe, I have eight aunts and uncles, 15 cousins, and seven nephews and nieces.

Though we are usually all together only on major occasions such as weddings, those who are nearby see each other often. She herself is in the faculty of the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines, and also used to sit on the board of trustees of the Philippine Women’s University.

I am very blessed to have such kind and loving families on both sides!

What book is your mom working on?

My dad and I went to support the launch of her latest book, “The Life and Art of David Medalla,” at the Tate Britain in London. It was published by Vibal Foundation and will be launched at the Ateneo Art Gallery at the end of the year. My mom has six books under her belt!

When did you learn that your mom was a top model?

PHOTO BY PAELO PEDRAJAS

I guess it has always been a fact that I grew up with, but it was only later in life that I started to realize how truly original that is. She doesn’t talk about it much and there aren’t many pictures, but knowing that my mother is very good at everything she sets her mind to, I have no doubt that she was amazing. I’m very proud of the many different things that she and my father have accomplished in their lives.

 

What were the jobs and positions your mom held?

She studied art history at the University of the Philippines and earned two MA degrees in that field at New York University and the University of London. She’d worked for 40 years in major museums in Manila, New York and Geneva, and is now president of the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, a nonprofit organization that supports art and culture in general and promotes the National Museum of the Philippines.

What’s the best advise your mom gave you?

Embrace the unknown and say yes to new things.

How about your dad?

Think independently, but show respect and tolerance for people who have a different opinion.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

It’s hard to think about it when I can’t even believe I am already in university! But generally, I hope that by then I will be independent, successful, but more importantly, happy.


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