The finest of the neophytes

In Photo: Renz Reyes; and Ched Studio

ON its second edition, the Bench Design Awards (BDA) is once again propelling three new names to the forefront of fashion. The 2018 winners—Christian Edward Dalogaog of Ched Studio, Sherwin “Otto” Sacramento of Ottomondi and Renz Edward Reyes—will be sent to Japan to represent the Philippines at the Amazon Tokyo Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2019 Collections in October.

Besides showcasing the best collections from an exceptional batch, the three winners have links to the fashion citadel, Italy. Ched Studio, after being profiled on Vogue Italia’s web site, showed at Pitti Immagine Super Trade Show during Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018, chosen in collaboration with Vogue Talents under Sara Maino, deputy editor in chief of Vogue Italia.

Ottomondi’s Sacramento’s impressive résumé includes working in Italy for Marni, Trussardi, Moncler and Prada. He also conceptualized and organized events, mostly with Vogue Italia. “That gave me the opportunity to work with Franca Sozzani, the late editor who was one of the most generous people I have met in the industry. Despite her top position, she was a very kind person. She could tell immediately if a person was creative, and she respected that,” Sacramento shared.


Reyes, meanwhile, was fascinated with the visually lush, cult horror flick Suspiria (1977), directed by the legendary Italian director Dario Argento. Luca Guadagnino’s (Call Me By Your Name) personal interpretation, however, screened at the recent Venice Film Festival, is being panned by critics.

Dalogaog and Reyes are products of the Fashion Institute of the Philippines, and its founder, designer Shanon Pamaong, is mighty proud: “Our mentorship program for graduating students, as well as our fashion courses, help ready our students to the difficult demands of the fashion industry today. We take pride in our techniques and practices, which are simplified in order to produce garments effectively but also taking in consideration the quality and the proper fit. We also liberate our students to find and express their own aesthetics through clothing.”

The winners will be flown to Tokyo, all-expenses paid, by Bench big man Ben Chan, a strong supporter of Filipino neophyte fashion talents. They will also benefit from trainings at Tokyo’s garment and textile factories. “Winning at the Bench Design Awards definitely has a huge impact on my career. I don’t think I would get as much following as I do today if not for the BDA, and that’s really important for a young, growing brand,” said Jaggy Glarino, one of 2017’s winners.

“I’m working on a new collection. I’m thoroughly working on my brand image, and would really wish to be more known internationally.”

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“THE collection puts a strong focus on the power of the skirt and the womanly shape; a movement away from obvious masculinity. The body is draped to form, to occupy space and create volume. We manipulated our traditional callado embroidery, which takes 30 to 40 hours to finish, to create a new pattern on top medium-weight cotton gingham fabric, to contrast and blur the lines,” explained Dalogaog, 27, the creative director of Ched Studio and Ched Studio Bespoke.  Some of his creations has eye-catching imagery taken from an 18th-century book on Filipino traditions, rendered and digitally printed on nylon taffeta from Japan and embroidered “to create texture, layers of reference and levels of ideas.”

“We are presenting the same collection in Tokyo but making it bigger and more impactful. The show is going to happen in one of the larger venues during Fashion Week. We need to deliver and show only the best,” said the young designer.


“AS a kid in the 1980s, I was influenced by the aesthetics and details of classic male elegance thanks to my father, a bespoke tailor from Tarlac, where I grew up,” said Sacramento, 39. “Now I get inspired by architecture, fine arts and my travels in general. I’m obsessed with simplified forms, rational and functional shapes, different perspectives of beauty and details.”

His BDA collection derives inspiration from the image of a cavalcade of modern warriors trooping down the mystical karst mountains of Yangshuo County in Guilin, China. The warriors sport utilitarian outfits with local fabric like inabel incorporated, the silhouettes influenced by the ancient battle gear of the samurai. The panels and patchworks bring to mind a soldier’s body armor. He also made “monolithic-like footwear from thick blocks of rubber embellished with braided local fibers in solid colors.”

“We source and make everything locally. Coming back to the Philippines after almost two decades, work here was both a challenge and an exciting journey. My network is very limited in Manila, so the production was a real challenge, especially to reach the level of details that I’m used to. The people I met in this journey and their skills were the real surprise. I must say that this experience is helping me to rediscover my roots and appreciate the tremendous work of Filipino artisans,” he said.

“Winning BDA was totally unexpected. I didn’t really take it as a competition. I joined because I wanted to have a window to show my work. I think it’s really great that we as Filipino designers have a platform like that to express our creativity and reach a wider audience,” Sacramento shared.


REYES had the most superb embellishments among the entries. Unsurprising, since he designs embroideries, beading and fabric manipulation/textures.  “I really wanted to make a visual and tactile collection. I focused on developing embroideries and textures for the clothes, as I want to highlight the craft of embellishments, which is my expertise. It’s a very feminine collection with a hard visual edge. I wanted the collection to be graphic and bold, but in a thoughtful way,” the Far Eastern University advertising arts grad said.

The captivating collection was inspired by the high melodrama of vintage giallo cinema, specifically Dario Argento’s Suspiria. Giallo is an Italian genre in film and literature with horror, mystery, supernatural and thriller elements.

The original starred Jessica Harper as aspiring dancer Suzy Bannion and Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc, the witch. The 2018 remake stars Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton.

“I got most of my motifs all throughout the production design of the 1977 film. The dizzying architecture and graphic nature of the art within the film proved very inspirational,” said Reyes, a Preview Emerging Fashion Talent Awardee. “I’ve never won anything, so winning the Bench Design Awards is quite a surreal experience. I really take it with a sense of gratitude and honor,” Reyes said.

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This writer is a beauty, celebrity and fashion columnist for BusinessMirror, and did fashion editorials and celebrity profiles for D+, its monthly supplement. As much as possible the column, called Tota Pulchra, only deals with the good, the great and the glamorous.