For their Bench Fashion Week Holiday 2023 runway presentations, designers Renz Reyes and Chris Nick superimpose masculine and feminine codes.
Last weekend, the Bench Fashion Week Holiday 2023 presentations dictated the next trends and styles to take over Manila this season. From Lulu Tan-Gan’s fantastical Piña outerwear creations to the “Bittoverse,” Bitto Studio’s burgeoning cyberpunk world, the meld of Filipino artistry incited enough fashion inspiration to last through to the end of the year.
Out of the lineup of designers, Renz Reyes and Chris Nick presented womenswear spliced with traditionally masculine silhouettes. The collections are befitting this present moment in fashion, which embraces playful subversions of gendered dressing on the runway and beyond.
When Renz Reyes set out to design his collection, he found himself drawn to a photograph depicting penitensya, an act of devotion enacted every Holy Week in the Philippines. The ritual requires Catholic men to pay public penance for their sins, and one aspect is the wearing of traditional grass skirts—the outward display of femininity viewed as a form of punishment. Reyes told Bench in a pre-show interview that he was “puzzled” by this act, setting out to recreate it sartorially in an effort to give it new meaning.
The resulting collection “Hortitorture” strikes a fine balance between toughness and softness, opening the show with embroidered jags and swirls and rough edges, and closing with petal-like assemblages in featherlight, sheer fabric.
“Embroidery has always been a part of what I do, and I naturally gravitate towards linear or geometric motifs on structured materials. But for this collection, I embraced materials such as organza to give lightness and movement to some of the clothes,” Reyes tells Vogue Philippines. “Even if the organza pieces are heavily embroidered, it doesn’t seem heavy and gilded which I love. I work with layering organza and cutting out parts of it to create a gradation of color.”
For his collection, Chris Nick riffs off of the tuxedo, his favorite article of clothing, with denim and ‘70s cowboy influences. Per his signature, he pairs the classic silhouette with feminine codes and contemporary flair, sending cheeky slogan tanks (with “I LOVE COWBOYS” and “I RIDE HORSES” emblazoned), short-short skirts, and cropped jackets featuring open lapels.
The collection marks the designer’s first foray into denim. “It’s me reinterpreting the tuxedo—denim is typically viewed as a very casual piece,” he told Bench in a pre-show interview. Relaxed tailoring brings denim into Nick’s realm of understated elegance, creating essential silhouettes that have the ability to make a seamless transition from day to night.