Philippine Daily Inquirer
The man behind the fashion empire
HIS WORLD: BEN CHAN
IT STARTED WITH ONE man’s vision and an iconic TV commercial.
Bench began in 1987 with a small store sellingmen’s shirts. In 1988, a then budding actor, Richard Gomez, was made an endorser in a landmark TV ad. In the ad Gomez was rowing in open water to the tune of Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.”
It was a moment frozen in time. It not only helped create a movie star, but also created a super brand.
Today, Bench is the undisputed leader in its retail category. It is the only local brand that has managed to penetrate tough markets such as China, theMiddle East and the US.
The brand, which started
with apparel, has expanded into perfumes, accessories and cosmetics.
In 1997, Bench had its first underwear show, and the show has been periodically held since.
The recent “Uncut” show was one of the best yet.
Who is the man behind the fashion empire?
Ben Chan is probably one of the most enigmatic individuals in business and society. I have had the privilege to know Ben for quite some time.
Despite the success and accolades he has reaped over the years, he remains simple and down to earth. He has a generous heart, encouraging smile and tender soul.
Thisweek, get to know a little more of Ben Chan as he lets us take a peek into his “world.”
What is your idea of happiness?
Traveling to explore new places and territories.
What was your childhood ambition? To become a flight attendant. What is your favorite childhood memory?
Annual Christmas get-together with my family.
What are your haunts inManila?
Inagiku for Japanese cuisine, Bonifacio High Street and the
favorite Establishment. Favorite vacation spot? New York City, because it really is the center of the universe, Tokyo, London, Paris and most recently Rio de Janeiro. Favorite comfort food? Nuts and Haägen-Dazs Macadamia ice cream. Can’t get enough of them.
What have you read more than once?
“Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
iPhone, mobile phone or Blackberry? Blackberry. Besides your cell phone, what modern gadget can’t you livewithout? Just recently, my iPad. What music are you listen- ing to? Argentine tango. What movie/or movie character most closely resembles your life?
Can’t think of anyone in particular.
What movie the past year would you recommend everyone to see? “500 Days of Summer” Define your personal style. Laid-back, casual comfort, basic.
What was the hardest lesson you had to learn? Taking risks. What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
The creative aspect. Seeing your designs and products from the conceptual stage to actual purchase by the consumer.
What has been you defining Bench moment?
Our expansion in the Middle East in 2004 opened up opportunities for Bench in the international retail operation. To date we have 13 boutiques, we never thought we could get this far. What is your greatest fear? Illness, all kinds. What or who is the greatest love of your life? My mom. What so far has been your most definingmoment?
Coming home from the US where I thought I’d be based for good. What makes you happy? Sunny days. When was the last time you cried? At Douglas Quijano’s wake. What’s something people don’t know about you?
I’m shy. So I don’t party. I’d rather have intimate dinner with friends.
Best teaching your parents ever gave you?
There’s no substitute for hard work and perseverance. Who are your heroes? Bill Gates for helping change the way we work, Al Gore for getting the world to take responsibility for the environment, and Carlos Chan for his foresight in business.
What’s something from the past you wish could come back? My youth. What are your wishes for the new administration?
Unity and success. We need both to prosper.
What’s the greatest teaching you have learned so far from life?
No amount of success can make up for love of family.