Meet the Filipino Designers and Stylists Who Opened BENCH Fashion Week

Meet the Filipino Designers and Stylists Who Opened BENCH Fashion Week


Fronting the three-day fashion week event are Antonina, Strongvillage, Cotton On, and Human with Jenni Contreras

In its sixth installment, BENCH Fashion Week is finally back on the physical runway after two years. This annual three-day celebration of local and international talents was off to a strong start with brands Antonina, Strongvillage, Cotton On, and Human with Jenni Contreras on opening day. What to expect from the collections of these creatives? Everything imaginative, sustainable, and meaningful in the local fashion scene.


With her bold psyche and strong ideals, young Filipina designer Antonina Abad Amoncio has consistently commandeered her self-made brand inspired from her first-hand experiences, socially-relevant issues, and even private sentiments.

In this year’s BENCH Fashion Week, Amoncio came up with an eight-piece Spring/Summer 2023 collection called “ANINO.” 

“As a creative, I’ve always been drawn to images and visuals that resonate me,” shares the designer, who has previously presented her works in Japan and the Philippines in various Fashion Week events. “This personal collection is like an extension of dark images or shadows, with a play on exaggerated sleeves and silhouettes, peeping holes, and manipulations that I have been doing in my previous collections, Para Sa’yo, Gunita, and Walang Pamagat.”

Although initially hesitant to release her very first collection with just one color (since there’s a tendency for it to look flat from afar), she was able to incorporate manipulations that are very close to her vision. With BENCH continuing its legacy of championing Filipino talents, the young local designer feels honored and grateful to be considered and to be given this big platform in the brand’s fashion week.

Amoncio shares that she was more at ease with this collection since the presentation takes the form of a showcase, not a competition. In her past experiences with the local brand, she was always working under the Design Awards category. 

“I was given enough time to execute my vision. And with the help of my family and good friends in the fashion industry, we were able to create beyond what was expected,” she says, remembering the time when she doubted herself during her debut as a fashion designer with BENCH back in 2018. “Considering that this is the first show after the pandemic, I think more than myself, I hope I get to inspire young designers to strive and to continue designing. It was difficult for everyone, but I am very hopeful that fashion will come back.”

For Amoncio, every creative has their own paths and timelines, and that each day is a learning opportunity; listen and absorb everything first. Her advice to aspiring designers? Persevere. Feeling the weight on one’s shoulders is fine, and bouncing back from mistakes is the way to go.

“In this runway in fashion we have, we learn to stand again,” she declares. “Never stop learning, absorb all information, listen to your peers and mentors, and always stay grounded. I’ve always been hopeful for fashion here in the Philippines. I hope [that] one day, Filipino fashion gets all the support and recognition it deserves. We really are a talented bunch.”


Bringing the favorite styles of the ‘90s in all-time nostalgia high, Cotton On presents its latest collection in BENCH Fashion Week with the familiar silhouettes exuding the kind of comfort in the transition back to the swing of regular life. Cotton On also teamed up with wævy Fashion Director Jana Silao to style their newest pieces. Her fashion direction elevated the brand’s essential pieces through her masterfully created layers—the perfect dose of well-loved classics and modern creativity.

“I feel quite nostalgic, to be honest, since I feel most euphoric as a stylist when I style for runways because it is a full presentation—from the looks, to the stage, to the light and the music,” Silao shares. “I’m a ‘90s baby, and I really love the early 2000s fashion, so I’m quite excited for this. I prepared for this runway by rewatching my favorite shows as a kid, and studying the distinct branding of each character in the shows. This experience really honed my creativity in bringing clothes to life by creating stories behind every look. I think that moving forward in my career as a fashion creative, I could use this experience to go deeper and be more purposeful with my works.”

This is Silao’s vision for Philippine fashion: pushing the boundaries of art and creativity, making trends instead of simply following them. To aspiring creatives, Silao urges them to find their creative tribe while also seeking their own niche in the industry. 

“Teamwork is very important to execute your greatest ideas,” Silao ends. “Don’t be afraid to go all out. Let your creative heart be free.”


With the purpose of having a ready-to-wear line that’s focused on sustainable menswear, but also bordering on androgynous, Strongvillage etches upcycling and sustainability in the brand’s DNA. Strongvillage is the literal English translation of the owner’s last name, which is Villafuerte.

“The initial design principle for Strongvillage is that I won’t be making them unless I can wear the pieces myself,” Russell Villafuerte tells MEGA Magazine in an interview for its August 2022 issue. “It’s a brand where all the clothes I make are very personal, and not something I plan to please everybody with.”

Strongvillage’s difference from the designer’s namesake brand Russell Villafuerte is that it has  a stronger brand identity and a very distinct aesthetic, while the latter is more artistically free. Still, both are set on crafting pieces that are ethically produced. As Villafuerte sees it, BENCH has always been a champion for local designers, which is why he deems it a privilege for his brand to be presented on the runway of BENCH Fashion Week.

With 50 separate pieces for 15 looks, Villafuerte’s strong design sensibilities was backed by his practice and advocacy for an inclusive, committed, and culture-heavy fashion industry.

“My hope is awareness regarding sustainable clothing and ethical fashion,” says Villafuerte. “Awareness regarding ethics and sustainability, not only with the clothes we’re making, but also with the treatment of our workers, and the whole production process itself.”


Filling the runway of BENCH Fashion Week with one of a kind graphics and ‘90s-inspired looks is local brand Human’s collaboration with designer Jenni Contreras. With Human known for its eye for pop culture and youthful nostalgia, the label was able to find a common style ground with Contreras, whose vision also plays along the lines of the 20th century juvenile days.

“One of my favorite things to do when I’m at our house in the province is to go through my parents’ old photo albums in our attic,” Contreras shares in her collection notes. “I was always so curious and fascinated whenever I’d see them when they were younger—the places they went to, the activities they did, and especially the clothes they were wearing.”

Contrares saw her dad in collared tees tucked in short shorts and her mom in pants tucked in knee high socks—and that’s where this collection kicked off. She was also inspired by classic slasher movies in that era where a lot of it was set in summer camps. But what makes it truly a work of the young designer? A touch of darkness.

The 23-year old designer was also a product of the BENCH Design Awards (BDA) that gave her an opportunity to present her first collection in Amazon Fashion Week. This is actually her third fashion show with BENCH Fashion Week so Contreras was already kind of used to the process and how they do things.

“That competition is still one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and is one of the reasons I do what I do,” Contreras says. “And what I love about BENCH Fashion Week is the people behind it. They never fail to make us feel like family. BENCH Fashion Week feels like home in a way. It’s home to many creatives and designers.”

Her brand, Problem Studios, is her avenue for creating thought-provoking pieces that hint on artistic sentimentality and a whole lot of character.

“My advce for aspiring designers is to make it personal,” Contreras says. “My BDA colleague, Jaggy Glarino would often say that the key to a good collection is the “hugot” factor. It has to be personal to be sincere and authentic.”

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