Bench puts up a good fight vs foreign brands | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

DESPITE the heavy downpour and flash floods, friends and the fashion faithful flocked to the opening of Philippine Fashion Week—all for the love of Ben Chan, the head honcho and creative director of Suyen Corporation.

Chan faces one of the biggest challenges of his career—the influx of more foreign fashion brands and the rapidly growing imported chains, whose trend-driven and youth-oriented styles in eye-popping colors come with prices that undermine the local labels.

These brands that espouse cheap chic have fed on the colonial mentality. Hence, if Filipinos could buy a set of clothes for P3,000 at Bench or Kashieca, they’d probably get nearly the same value for money from a foreign brand.

However, Chan is putting up a good fight with the labels Human, Kashieca, Bench and Bench Body. In the past seasons, Suyen Corporation has invited designers to create pocket collections to add more value to their image.

Classic and figure-flattering

Human’s holiday collection has a house party theme, what with T-shirts infused with bold graphics inspired by cartoons and neon colors, in contrast to Joey Samson’s black collection with bands of color and his signature asymmetrical tailored details. Jodhpurs, a staple in previous collections, were given an updated cut and done in pique. Jeans were splashed with paint.

Pant lengths were exaggerated so that the wearer could scrunch them up. Samson introduced two-face pants, wherein the front looked like formal black pants with sleek fabrication, but the back was made of cotton.

Kashieca has always suggested the ’40s look—classic, figure-flattering looks, two-piece coordinates, flirty shorts reminiscent of the pin-up girls, full and boxy tops, tailored looks with special attention to collars, sleeve details, and style lines of the tops. For the holiday season, the clothes sparkled with glitter or adorned with appliqués and other textural embellishments. There were capri pants, dirndl skirts, and plaid bias-cut skirts from the ’50s and early ’60s, and loud colors and maxi skirts from the ’70s.

As a surprise, the floral scent of Randy Ortiz’s Homage penetrated the SMX hall as the models paraded in his gowns.

Eye-catching details

In the undergarments market, Bench is still top when it comes to marketing. Although majority of Filipinos still favors white cotton classics, Bench Body created a larger-than-life image of its colorful and printed underwear. It took the puritan attitude out of underwear with its tongue-in-cheek styles and graphic elastic bands emblazoned with the brand name.

Bench’s holiday forecast focused on the military style and preppie plaids, timeless staples. Military jackets came in cropped and mid-length styles, highlighted by double-stitching, tailoring, epaulets and brass buttons.

Part of the look is khaki, interpreted in a hip manner. While the upmarket gets giddy with the constant turnover of new styles knocked off from the runways offered by the foreign brands, Bench is maintaining its own rules: Get back to the basics—only better.

Known for relaxed tailoring, M Barretto did a capsule collection that featured geometrically cut long sleeves, tailored drop pants, and one-piece outfits that looked like two pieces, such as shorts with tights and T-shirts with layered pullovers.

Its banner styles are T-shirts with eye-catching details, denim in different silhouettes, and pants with drop crotches and twisted side seams. What could be more preppy and basic than polo shirts, Bermudas, sports shirts and garterized jackets pulled together for a clean look?

While the styles of the foreign brands can be outmoded in the blink of an eye, Bench maintains that enduring styles need not be. “It’s not a trendy, throwaway look. We want to show that Bench can be the building block for your wardrobe and it can last from season to season with the mixing and matching. It is meant to be a wardrobe staple,” says Suyen Corporation’s stylist Noel Manapat. Chan understands that the average Filipino wearer still dresses up on the safe side and will gravitate towards basic looks.

The styles of all brands are age-friendly. Boomers need not be intimidated. Eat your heart out, purveyors of fast fashion.

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