There’s a question that’s constantly being asked within the fashion industry: “What’s next?” The current pace at which fashion operates is reaching breakneck speeds, and no one is safe from getting left behind — it’s either you stay at the top or you slowly coast towards the bottom. Over the past 30 years, Bench has risen among the top fashion brands of the Philippines, positioning itself with retail stores all over the country and, more recently, around the world. But now that it’s reached a considerable milestone, the question has come knocking once more.
It’s easy to say that a top company can just coast once it reaches that peak, but not Bench. For many years, Bench founder Ben Chan has championed local fashion — not just the brand’s own, of course, but many other local talents as well. He has done this by collaborating with various designers over the years. And now, as Bench celebrates its 30th year, it makes even more room for Filipino talent to grow by launching the Bench Design Awards. The competition aims to put the spotlight on undiscovered young designers who don’t only deserve to be known locally, but also to be given the opportunity to compete globally.
After the nationwide open call last June, 10 designers were selected to present their collection at the recently concluded Bench Fashion Week Holiday 2017. The panel of judges included Akiko Shinoda, director of International Affairs of Tokyo Fashion Week, Mitsugu Sudo and Hidea Yokoi, editors/creative directors of Rocket Company, and Yoshio Yokobori, international consultant of Slide Co. Ltd., and Terese Ortiz-Matera, former model and AFMT Philippine Project consultant. Ben Chan, chairman of the board of Bench, joined them for the jury night held on Sept. 10, the last leg of a series of shows. The runway was filled with vibrant energy and creativity of the young designers, but only the top three were awarded the opportunity to present their collection alongside Bench at the Amazon Fashion Week S/S 2018 in Tokyo this October. In the end, it was the collections of Jennifer Contreras, Jaggy Glarino and RJ Santos that stood out the most.
Here’s a closer look at the finalists of the first ever Bench Design Awards and their collection.