The Philippine Star
The CEO group culminates milestone year celebration with celebrity fashion show
The CEO Group of Companies, headed by power couple Benito and Huy Kun Lim, brought to a close the months-long celebration of their 40th year in the apparel industry, together with business partners, friends, and fans of the brands they carry.
Held in popular gastro pub and events venue District8, the party was organized as the CEO Group’s expression of gratitude for both the triumphs and the trials that have allowed them to remain one of the top players in the competitive apparel industry, introducing clothing brands that have become staples and signature style pieces for a diverse but huge market.
Starting out as a small manufacturing company in 1978, with little else beyond courage, perseverance, gut feel, and 10 secondhand sewing machines purchased from his future fatherin-law, Benito began this business partnership with Huy Kun, then his fiancée.
“We began with a small-volume setup producing ladies’ blouses, then eventually switched to school uniforms, which we sold to department stores under the brand name Sahara,” Benito recounts. “I didn’t have my own car and the small staff we had was dedicated to production, so I needed to go and present our products, sell them, and make deliveries to department stores, which at that time were relatively few and far apart.”
Soon they would diversify and focus on men’s staples. “I have always been intrigued by the fashion industry, particularly men’s shirting,” he continues. “A dress shirt appears to be a very basic piece of clothing, but the crafting is complex, and it requires a lot of attention to detail. Besides, I personally like wearing well-made clothes, so I decided to learn how to make them.”
Their goal was to deliver products of outstanding quality and excellent value in order to penetrate the tight market then, and it remains the same now in order to stay relevant and valued by their retail partners and customers.
Before long, they had captured a wide market range with dependable and renowned local brands like Sahara and Wall Street. “We have never wavered fromourcommitmenttoquality.Andour customers recognized this and continue to patronize our brands because of it.”
In 2000, the couple ventured out of the local field as authorized licensee of American brand Arrow. Later they would be named distributor of Thailand’s top fashion label Espada.
In 2005, they acquired local menswear brand Criterion, expanding their brand portfolio. Afterwards, they created Ultimo, a brand specifically designed and manufactured for big and tall men. In 2013, they were named the new licensee for Izod and Van Heusen in the Philippines. Most recently, they launched CEO Plus, another brand catering to plus-size male professionals.
Throughout their growth as a local business, the founders—now joined by their children—have never failed to look back on their roots as they gain confidence in an increasingly global market for apparel. Apart from quality and excellence, they have always honored integrity, mentorship, and giving back. The past months have found them sharing their successes with their loyal employees, who were treated to a cruise to Japan and Taiwan, and with beneficiaries such as the scholars of the Philippine Science High School.
The CEO Group capped its milestone celebration with a fashion show featuring the brands they have developed, established, and grown, and some of their past and current brand ambassadors, including photographers Nelwin Uy and JJ Lucas, sportscaster Migs Bustos, former ballers Patrick Fran and Gerard Francisco and politician and entrepreneur Francis Zamora.
“It has been an uphill climb, true, but it has been an enriching experience as well, which we couldn’t have been blessed with if not also for the people who have been with us from the start, who have believed in us and our products, and the continued support and patronage of our customers,” Benito said, toasting to the future of the CEO Group of CompaniesA r