Thursday, November 5, 2009
Ben Chan, the Man behind the 'Bench'
Ben Chan is a prominent Chinese-Filipino entreprenuer who is the founder of the Philippines' largest clothing chain, Bench, under the trademark Suyen Corporation. With his world class fashion style and hardworking ethic, he has expanded the Philippine clothing chain into international markets including China, the land of his forefathers. He is dubbed as one of the most prominent people in the country as mentioned in the Philippine Tatler's list of Who's Who of the Philippines.
From its humble beginnings, the t-shirt offerings expanded into a whole lifestyle store, offering Fix Salon for hair products and services, Prescribe(r) a stationery line, Bench Brats, a teenage line, Bench Body and Bath, specializing in bath and fragrance products, and now HerBench offering a complete women's line, including fragrances and cosmetics.
Management of the company is shared with his brother-in-law Virgilio Lim who develops systems and operations, while sister Nenita Lim handles finance. Ben devotes his energy to the creative side.
Ben is a legend in marketing strategies, one of the first Filipino entrepreneurs who value the concept of celebrity endorsers and image models. In 1988 with its first dedicated Bench boutique, Ben hired a young new actor then by the name of Richard Gomez, as its first image model. As Gomez's fame increased, so did Bench's, paired with increasingly large and beautiful images of Mr Gomez along highways and malls in the Philipines.
Other endorsers have included Gomez's wife Lucy Torres, models Marc Nelson and Borgy Manotoc, as well as actors Diether Ocampo and Richard Gutierrez.
Besides beautiful young image models, Ben Chan has also pioneered in featuring more mature endorsers, including Ben Cab, the artist, Marixi Prieto, the socialite, and Congressman TeddyBoy Locsin.
Internationally Chinese supermodel Lu Yan, the runner up in Cosmopolitan World’s International Super-Model Competition held in Paris was selected by Ben Chan to be the image model of Bench in China. In 2003, Asian superstar Jerry Yan became its image model in Asia. Actor-singer Peter Ho was hired in 2005 and the following year actress-model Qu Ying was hired as the chain's female endorser in China.
Ben Chan's forays into both print and TV advertising created waves. One of his first TV commercials, "A Day in a Sculler's Life" created in 1991 by Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre featured no voice over nor copy. It depicted the image model as rowing stylistically to the sound of Chopin's "Claire de Lune." Its conceptual daring was rewarded with a Best in Cinematorgraphy Award at the Philippine Advertising Congress.
In 1994 Bench opened its first fashion store outside the Philipines in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, soon followed by its first in Shanghai, China. A store soon followed the following year in Kuwait. In 1997 Bench pioneered the first underwear show in the Philippines. In 2002 the show would set a record by attracting 25,000 to its Underwear Show.
By 2007, on its 20th anniversary, Bench had established stores in Eaglerock, Los Angeles, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Guangzhou, Xian, and Dubai, on its road to global retailing. China remains its primary focus with more than 27 company stores and 19 franchises.
Recently Mr Chan has dabbled in philanthropy, establishing the Wear Your Conscience Projet with Photobook for the Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation.