Art/Style/Travel DiariesStyle

Bambi Harper donates ternos to Farrales exhibit at Benilde

‘There will only ever be one Mang Ben’—says his muse and culture columnist

Indian-style red and gold terno, with one-shoulder sari-like overlay embellished with embroidered gold trim (All photos on this page courtesy of DLS-College of Saint Benilde)

Bambi Harper in draped gown by Farrales, in recent photo (Contributed photo)

It all began when a relative of the country’s foremost designer Ben Farrales, Cynthia Pendatun, donated some 40 of his Philippine ternos and evening gowns to the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, for the safekeeping and preservation of these artifacts of fashion history.

This brought about FARRALES@BENILDE, a physical exhibition of choice ensembles by the Philippine Dean of Fashion, at the Main Gallery of the College’s Design and Arts Campus in Malate, Manila.

The ongoing show features his Filipiniana creations, traditional ternos and Muslim-inspired pieces, all examples of the artistry that led to his recognition with the Outstanding Filipino Award by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Philippines and the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining Award by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, among others.

Among the many visitors to the show was former model Bambi Lammoglia Harper, accompanied by son Miguel and daughter-in-law Angela. Harper was one of the muses of Farrales, especially during his early years in the industry.

The displayed archives of printed clippings show Harper in a Farrales checkered kimona for a cover story of Woman and the Home magazine in 1959. Since then, the two became inseparable as they made the rounds of Manila, various cities in the country, and all the way to the World’s Fair in Seattle, USA.

“I was 16 and just out of school when I was thrown into a world of glamorous clothes and exciting benefits organized by Tita Conching Sunico,” Harper recalled. “But it was a very private individual and vastly talented young couturier called Benjamin Farrales who stepped in, like Professor Henry Higgins, to teach me how to glide down a ramp or do a sharp turn—and to do it all seemingly effortlessly.”

Pieces were made for her to showcase Farrales’ evolution through this 60-year career. “Some people enter our lives for a while or a brief season, but Mang Ben was a friend for life,” she said. Harper became one of the country’s most-read columnists as she decided to write about arts and culture.

Inspired by the exhibit collection, Harper donated from her own wardrobe some select Farrales ternos and evening gowns that showed Farrales’ signature draping, unusual and striking color combinations, for students to learn from the fashion giant. “I thought these particular ternos were a good example of Mang Ben’s expertise. Students would learn much from them.”

“The range of styles shows the creativity of Farrales as well as the high regard and affection he had for his muse, as they traversed their lives and careers through the years,” said Gerry Torres, Center for Campus Art director. “The colors of the ternos nearly complete the rainbow spectrum, from the deep red of the Indian-style piece to the cool blues and greens of the Grecian draped number.”

These pieces are now in the FARRALES@BENILDE exhibit, which runs until September 10, 2022. Then the collection will be moved to a permanent site at the DLS-CSB campus.

For his innovative adaptation of the Muslim malong from everyday garment to contemporary mainstream attire, and for his mastery of the art of the draped gown, many in the fashion industry believe that Farrales deserves the National Artist Award for fashion design. Harper said, “There will only ever be one Mang Ben.”

FARRALES@BENILDE is on view at the 12F Main Gallery of the Design and Arts Campus, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, 950 Pablo Ocampo Street, Malate, Manila. For those who wish to share their Farrales gowns for exhibit and safekeeping, please contact Gerry Torres and the CCA at [email protected].


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