By Cecille Santillan-Visto
FILIPINO fashion brand, Bench, has mastered the art of fostering nationalism while keeping up with the trends. Its mantra, “Love Local,” has a unique twist in that while Bench is a homegrown line, it has partnered with Asian superstars to beef up marketing. The formula has worked — and continues to work — making Bench the brand of choice in its target segments.
Over the weekend, Bench has once again proved this potent combination of local branding with strong foreign (read: Korean) endorsement. The SM Mall of Asia Arena was filled last Saturday with over 7,000 fans eager to see actor and singer Park Hyung Sik, one of the company’s most popular global “Benchsetters.” The huge gathering was followed by sold-out meet-and-greet sessions at the Trinoma and SM Mall of Asia where 50 lucky fans had the opportunity to see up close the Strong Woman Do Bong Soon lead.
Prior to Mr. Park’s involvement, Bench already had several K-celebrities in its roster of endorsers. Actor Lee Min Ho filled the Araneta Coliseum twice for his own fan meetings. K-pop idol Nichkhun of 2PM was also in Manila, not only to promote but also to launch a charity project for Typhoon Yolanda victims. Lee Donghae and Choi Siwon of Super Junior were also popular Bench models back in the day.
It was not the first time for the 27-year-old Mr. Park to hold an event for his loyal followers. In November 2017, he had a smaller and more intimate get-together with fans at the New Frontier Theater (Read article here: https://www.bworldonline.com/hung-hyung-sik/). As a returnee, the Hwarang star was visibly more relaxed and even indulged the fans with at least two impromptu songs during the Question and Answer portion.
He stepped onto the stage wearing a black jeans-and-jacket ensemble from Bench and singing “Because of You” from the Do Bong Soon OST. The ZE:A member’s impeccable live singing would have made some supporters think that it was a concert rather than a fan meeting. However, the rest of the night was spent mostly on fan interaction, which was a post-Valentine treat for them.
Three pre-selected fans went on stage to answer some trivia questions about Mr. Park, with the game ending in a two-way tie. The award-winning Suits star then called a fan’s mobile phone and requested to her to meet him on stage. And when he threw five giant balls with a promised prize to those holding them last in a game aptly called “Ball Park,” the MOA Arena burst into a frenzy. To cap the night, he had a “groufie” with the thousands who trooped to the MOA Arena.
Even local celebrities were smitten by Mr. Park, with the likes of Gelli and Janice de Belen and Jean Garcia, among the crowd. Mr. Park talked about his love for fishing and scuba diving and expressed his interest in exploring Bohol if given the opportunity. He also shared some Filipino words that he learned, including “Miss Kita” which he said to a fan he’d just met.
“Thank you Bench and Mr. Ben Chan for this opportunity to meet my fans,” he said, noting that his personal style perfectly matches the company’s casual line. He said when he first met Mr. Chan, he was initially intimidated by his apparent stern demeanor. But when the company CEO smiled widely, the K-idol’s impression immediately changed.
Asked about his favorite actors, his mention of Park Bo Young, his co-star in Do Bong Soon, had the crowd cheering. But he was quick to add that he favors all actors he has worked with in K-dramas.
It may have happened after Valentine’s Day but the fans of Park Hyung Sik were ecstatic that he nonetheless came. It was not too late to make happy those who adore him while spreading the love for Filipino fashion.