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Bench: 25 years, 28 brands and counting |

Sunday Lifestyle

Bench: 25 years, 28 brands and counting

- The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - 1. Dimensione: The Bench story actually began with this shop which was Ben Chan’s first concept store showcasing office furniture 28 years ago. After studying interior design in San Francisco, the young,long-haired maverick Ben went back to the Philippines( “I eventually had to give up my green card,” he explains.), and worked as an accessories designer for Chan C. Brothers, which was owned by his brother Carlos Chan, the now the much-admired mogul behind Oishi, the top food snack brand in China and the Philippines.

 2. Suyen: “It was actually my sister Nenita Lim who initiated our entry into the apparel business. She first opened Suyen, a children’s boutique named after her daughter, at Harrison Plaza.” This is where  the umbrella corporation behind Bench — Suyen Corporation — got its name.

3. Bench: The success of Suyen got the nod of the SM group for Nenita and Ben to open a concession at their prime department store, SM Makati. “The opportunity gave me the idea to design a T-shirt and jeans line for men which became branded as Bench in 1987.” When the Bench boutique was launched in 1989 at Park Square, Ben got the then rising actor Richard Gomez to be the Bench image model. The rest is fabulous billboard history.

4. Her Bench: In 1993, this brand was launched with Agot Isidro as image model.Finally, Bench female fans got  their own T-shirt and jeans line.

5. Kipling: This bag brand from Belgium with the ubiquitous little monkey doll was brought in by Ben in 1995. He gave it up when the original owner sold the company.

6. Human: This edgy clothing brand started with great success in 1999. Now it has 66 branches nationwide and 14 concessionaire shops.

7. Celio: This French clothing line for men is a hit among the fashionable A-listers with an eye for style with that European vibe.

8. Kashieca: When the Bench group bought this brand from an exporter specializing in quality knitted wear, it had five branches. Kashieca has since undergone a wonderful reinvention and now has 27 branches.

9. PCX: This shop is a Filipino temple for vanity and personal care needs.Everything you need—from cotton balls to colognes, from makeup to massage oils — is here.

10. Bench Fix: Ben saw that vacuum in the beauty industry and filled it with a salon offering good professional service at reasonable rates. As a testimony to its success, Bench Fix has widely expanded to 58 branches.

11. Studio Fix by Alex Carbonell in Greenbelt 5: This salon caters to men and women who prefer to reward themselves with the best service possible and get it by appointment. Alex is a highly respected artist in the beauty industry.

12. Be Connected: Yes,  Bench understands the lifestyle needs of the now generation and is also in the Internet cafe business.

13. Charles & Keith: This very popular line of shoes and bags from Singapore has been so well-received by Manila’s fashionable set, it has grown rapidly to 24 branches.

14. Aldo: Likewise loved by stylish shoppers is this brand of shoes, bags and accessories from Canada now found in 19 branches .

15. The Face Shop: The Korean invasion of the Philippines has happened not only via its well-loved telenovelas and pop stars. The Koreans are also making us realize that Asian cosmetics are best for Asian skin. Fast becoming a must-visit place for the beauty-conscious, The Face Shop  now has 27 branches nationwide.

16. La Senza: This Canadian brand now owned by Victoria’s Secret of the US  is now part of every sexy Filipina’s beauty secret. What is not so secret is that La Senza’s uplifting brassieres and pretty underwear are actually so reasonably priced. La Senza is found in 13 malls and shoppers can’t get enough of it.

17. F & X: This clothing line from Israel offers wonderful surprises: the hippest shirts, jeans and clothes at awesomely good prices. Also in 13 malls, and shoppers want more.

18, 19 and 20. Lyn shoes and bags, CC-OO casual wear and CPS party wear: These three brands from Thailand prove how Filipinos love and appreciate the Thai sensibility in fashion.

21. Mothercare: This thoughtful company from the United Kingdom carries everything  parents would need for their babies and toddlers. Need a backpack that can also serve as a mini-table? A school lunchpack kit that keeps the food warm? Mothercare invented it even before you needed it.

22. Patchi: These delicious chocolates beautifully packed for every occasion—from baptisms to birthdays to debuts to graduations to weddings—are on every chocolate lover’s lips.

 23. ELC or Early Learning Centre: ELC at the Active Fun building at Boni High Street is where you find those educational toys and gadgets that enrich your children’s minds .The Bench lifestyle group is certainly not just about fashion.

24. Call It Spring: This brand of shoes, bags and accessories from Canada was an instant hit when it opened in Manila.Call it hip, call it stylish, call it chic.

25. Repetto: Now you don’t have to go to Paris to get a pair of these much-coveted shoes.

26. Cotton On: This clothing line from Australia opens very soon in the Philippines, with its first shop at Boni High Street Central.

27. Karen Millen: This British brand of glamorous party clothes opened its first store in Kent in 1981. Now it is all over Europe, Russia, Australia, Asia—and soon, the Philippines.

28. Paul: And now, Manilans will experience the Parisian coffee shop culture.Where will Ben Chan open Paul? Bench family friend Keren Pascual hopes it will be at the ground floor of the Bench Tower at the Fort right across where Shangri-La will rise, very near the Mind Museum. Keren says: “I can already picture myself seated there, sipping coffee, biting a French macaron, sitting idly and watching the world go by...Then I don’t have to buy my favorite macarons at Laduree in Paris.”

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