It’s a story for the ages.
For most of us who grew up in the 90s and 2000s, we will remember growing up with Bench. It was a staple in every teenage Filipino’s wardrobe, providing everyday staples and becoming a mainstay at every mall and billboard. Before we knew it, Bench had become a mega brand, with not just clothes, but perfumes, hair products, salons, its own fashion week, and so many more. But how exactly did it get there? As BENCH/ celebrates 30 years, we take a quick look at the brand’s journey to the top. You know what they say, time does fly when you’re having fun.
1987 – 1997: Starting strong
BENCH/ began as a humble corner stall at SM Makati (then known as Shoemart Makati) in ’87, selling men’s shirts. Two years later, it opened its first boutique at Park Square, with huge images of the one and only BENCH/ OG, Richard Gomez. He was a rookie actor then, and it was unheard of for a brand to use a celebrity endorser. Two more years later, in 1991, BENCH/ and Gomez trailblazed with the now-iconic ad “A Day in a Sculler’s Life”, the first of a groundbreaking series of advertisements that would go on to win various international awards.
By the end of its first decade, BENCH/ had solidified itself in the local market, with the launch of its women’s line Herbench/ in 1993, which would also be fronted by the country’s leading female personalities. In 1997, even before the famous Guadalupe billboards, BENCH/ conquered the metro with its head-turning billboards. Its first underwear billboard was the biggest in town at the time, and it featured no less than hunky matinee idol Jomari Yllana in nothing more than a skimpy pair of briefs. It would serve as a precursor to the brands highly provocative ads later on, straddling the fine line between tasteful and sexy.
1997 – 2007: Expanding the universe
As it entered its second decade in the business, BENCH/ showed no signs of slowing down. If anything, it was still raring to go and create products with as much gusto as when it first started. The early 2000s saw the expansion of the BENCH universe across the board, from its products, endorsers, events, and retail locations.
From 1998-1999, BENCH/ launched its FIX line of products, which would later give birth to its own chain of salons, Bench FIX, in 2001. At this same time, the brand also ventured into snacks called Bench Bytes, which included potato chips, popcorn, marshmallows, and candies. BENCH/ became the true embodiment of a lifestyle brand.
The new millennium welcomed what would become BENCH/’s biggest pop culture event: its famed underwear show. Today, the underwear show is one of the most awaited events on the local calendar, taking place in the biggest arenas in the country.
The 2000s also saw the brand’s expansion into the international retail landscape. In 2002, BENCH/ opened its first store in Shanghai, the first Filipino brand to do so. The following year, the brand tapped into the F4 fever and included Jerry Yan into its roster of endorsers, which included a highly-anticipated visit to Manila and Cebu.
2007 – 2017: Elevating local to global
One might think that once a brand gets to the top, all it has to do is stay there. But not BENCH/. The brand has always believed in loving and elevating local, praising our local talent and helping them get further. Throughout its existence, BENCH/ has always proud to be a FIlipino brand, carrying that in its DNA and championing #LoveLocal in both our own shores and in the far reaches of the world. In 2007, BENCH/ designed uniforms for Cebu Pacific, and in 2011, the brand recruited the national rugby team, the Philippine Volcanoes, to be the faces of BENCH/ Body. It was also around this time when the brand asserted its international presence, appearing in America’s Next Top Model, and getting Bruno Mars, Joe Jonas, Adam Levine, Liam Hemsworth, Lee Min Ho, and more for its campaigns.
In 2013, BENCH/ let its roots grow and settled into its new home in BGC, in the 24-storey Bench Tower just in time for the brand’s 25th anniversary. In the following year, the brand launched both Benchmark/ and B/Blog, its in-house magazine and online digest, respectively. In 2015, BENCH/ was all about love: the book Love Local and the “Love All Kinds of Love” campaign were launched.
Last year, in 2016, BENCH/ began its ascent into the international arena once more, showing at the Amazon Fashion Week in Tokyo, and BENCH/ Body at New York Men’s Fashion Week for the Spring 2017 shows.
And now, as it celebrates its 30th year in the industry, BENCH/ launched BENCH/ Fashion Week and the BENCH/ Design Awards, putting the spotlight not just on its various brands, but on young design talent as well. The BENCH/ Design Awards gives the chance for local designers to show at Amazon Fashion Week alongside BENCH/ and offers mentorship and support for the designers to step onto the world stage.
To put a cherry on top of all this success, BENCH/ has reissued some of its classic logo t-shirts in stores, celebrating its evolution and heritage. They also serve as a reminder that after all this time, BENCH/ has no plans of slowing down. It’s true, what they say: it’s only when one looks back when they realize all they’ve accomplished. Here’s to the next 30 years!
Original story from Benchmark Issue 12