Ben Farrales, simply known as “Mang Ben” to younger generation of designers, is considered as the living legend in Philippines' fashion designer industry. He was the first Filipino designer to launch a fashion show in Manila Hotel in 1959. In 1984, he became the first Filipino to have a show at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., which was received by a thunderous ovation. Summing up, he has presented over 200 shows here and abroad.
Among Filipino designers, Ben Farrales is most famous for his Muslim-inspired look where tribal elements and indigenous materials are woven together. Best known is his Filipiniana, color-rich designs, he is one of the 2005 Ten Outstanding Filipino awardees. His creations were unmistakably Filipino and inarguably world-class.
Farrales first served as an apprentice at Aurelia’s, one of [Manila|Manila’s] most prestigious boutiques Later, with partner Zorro David, now a US-based hairdresser, he opened a boutique along Mabini Street in the bustling area of Malate. His creations, which have always been on the classic side, were not to be ignored by Manila’s fashionable society, which were forever in the whirl of the city’s classy balls and parties at that time. The fledging designer was on his way to becoming the crème de la crème’s fashion toast.
Farrales, highlighting elegant classicism in his designs draws inspiration from the malong, incorporating into this highly-prized ethnic cloth modern modes that are the envy of his peers. He has jazzed up the terno and barong tagalog with Muslim touches, enhanced such local fabrics as hablon, piña, and jusi to fit the western mode, and explored chiffon, silk and taffeta with innovative Filipino versions. He has thus demonstrated, in the words of a fashion writer, a “superb understanding of what makes for fashion silhouettes, and how, through fashion, a culture can blend with another.”
Having witnessed the change in different eras, Farrales feels most privileged to be an active participant in the evolution of fashion. An inveterate learner, he remains open to new ideas. “It makes me feel enriched and young all the time,” he admits. “I don’t sit around and wait for myself to stagnate. I always feel part of what’s going on.”
One of the progenitors of the Philippine Couture Association (where he once served as president), Farrales launched his first show at the Manila Hotel, in 1959, the first Filipino designer to have been presented there. This was followed by highly successful presentations of Philippine fashion in the United States, Europe, Canada, and Asia. In 1984, he became the first Filipino to have a show at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., which was received by a thunderous ovation. Summing up, he has presented over 200 shows here and abroad.
Timelessness marks Farrales' line of designs. Virtual showcases of classic elegance, they remain, as a fashion photographer puts it, “as fresh and as visually fascinating as the first day the designer barged in on the haute couture.” Ben Ferrales has become synonymous with par excellence in high fashion.
Despite his considerable success in promoting Philippine fashion abroad, Farrales has always insisted on working in his own country, believing that “we are abundant with talent.” And convinced that “Filipino designers should no longer be shackled by western dictates. It’s about time Filipinos set forth their own brand of couture staged with local color.”
Farrales normally does one show a year, and occasionally finds time to do a show or two abroad. Three years ago, he revived his men’s line, which he introduced in the mid-1960s, but which he later decided to abandon. Overall, his shows remain the most talked and raved about fashion event in Manila.
The designer, guided by the values of hard work, discipline and excellence that he imbibed in his younger years, follows a rigorous working regimen until today. He derives utmost pleasure in his day-to-day work, and the idea of discovering something new each day continues to fascinate him. “Everyday,” he says, “there’s a new fabric coming out. Just because you had a good show last month doesn’t mean you’ll stop and rest on the raves you received. Learning is a perpetual thing.”
- Ben Farrales(accessed on Aug. 30, 2007)
- Feature article on Ben Farrales' 50 Fashionable Years(accessed on Sept.5, 2007)
- Farrales' Fashion Show in Cebu, in celebration of the National Heritage Month, May 2007(accessed on Sept.5, 2007)