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Ben Chan in Tokyo: We want Filipino fashion to be the next big thing

05:53 AM November 04, 2017

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Yellow ensemble by Jenni Contreras

In Tokyo, different subcultures of fashion exist, but they mostly nestle under the umbrella of antifashion.


The common trends that depict Japan street style explicitly combine contrary fashion. Lolita, for instance, originated in Japan in the 1990s, depicting a cross of Rococo and Victorian.

Some fashion styles also render kimo-kawaii, which means grotesque and cute.


From Jaggy Glarino’s “Paper Plane” collection

In Japan, Harajuku is the core of fashion styles. There are no norms of fashion in this place; individuals enjoy wearing their creativity without raising eyebrows. Dressing in a myriad of styles ranging from minimalistic to flamboyant, it continues to attract people all over the world.

The recently concluded Amazon Fashion Tokyo Week defined how style can create an identity of society and its people. The event invited designers from several Asian countries, including Filipino brand Bench and other young designers from the Philippines, to showcase their talents and creativity.

Bench founder Ben Chan and the Filipino “alumni” designers of Amazon Fashion Tokyo Week share their thoughts about the fashion show and Japanese styles.

Ben Chan with Bench Design Awards winners Jaggy Glarino, RJ
Santos and Jennifer Contreras —PHOTOS BY MARK ANTHONY YAMADA

Ben Chan

“Bench was invited to participate by the organizers of Asian Fashion Meets Tokyo as sponsored by the Amazon Fashion Week. We saw this as an opportunity to showcase Bench to the growing Asian market.

“Our biggest agenda, however, is to introduce youngblood Filipino designers to the global arena. Through our recently concluded Bench Design Awards, we picked three budding designers with the help of a formidable jury of Japanese creatives.”

“The Philippines has a rich and diverse culture of long Chinese history combined with centuries of being colonized by Spain, the United States and Japan.


“Our aesthetics is a unique blend of all these cultures, earning us a unique distinction of Eastern and Western fashion,” he said. “We want Filipino fashion to be the next big thing, like how Pinoy food catapulted itself into the global scene of culinary.

“As a fast-fashion brand, Bench is in a never-ending process of continuously adapting to the changes in fashion. We aim to convert current trends combined with new innovation in a much shorter period. We carefully listen to our Japanese partners as we tediously work in understanding the Japanese aesthetics.”

Seph Bagasao

S/S 2018 bags by Seph Bagasao

“Amazon Tokyo Fashion Week was my very first fashion show when I was invited two years ago. It was a humbling experience and I didn’t have any expectations when I was chosen. I would describe Japanese street style as diverse and distinct.

“I went to New York and worked for Josie Natori for three years and came back to the Philippines in 2016, which was when I was invited to Amazon Tokyo Fashion Week.

“A quote from Diana Vreeland inspires me to give what the people think they don’t want yet.”

Mae Samudio

“Japanese people are very fashionable. Their style is effortless and they don’t chase the trend because they are the trend.

“I think not all Filipinos can adapt the Japanese style. Japan has no limits and age in terms of style. Filipinos are conservative (style-wise). Impressions matter to us more than expressing ourselves.”

RJ Santos

Beige ensemble with print by RJ Santos

“It was surreal for me to be chosen to present my collection in Tokyo. Amazon Tokyo Fashion Week taught me how the Japanese people are on time and organized.”

Renan Pacson

“Japanese street style is youthful, fun, diverse and energetic. It is inspirational because it ignites my creative juices as an artist. Though Japanese and Filipino fashion styles are different, the common factors are the sense of comfort, utility and function.

“I like to break the rules and think outside the box. I hate false patriotism as an artist. That is why my designs only have subtle hints of Filipino materials and culture.”

From Jennifer Contreras’ “Problem Child” collection

“Randolf” by RJ Santos

RJ Santos’ men’s midriff shirt and waistband baggy pants

From Jaggy Glarino’s avant-garde “Paper Plane” collection

From Jenni Contreras’ “Problem Child” collection

“Kawaii” graphic print tee and black trousers, Bench S/S 2018 collection

Maroon long-sleeved shirt and denim pants, Bench S/S 2018 collection

Navy blue top with longsleeved tee and baggy shorts, Bench S/S 2018 collection

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