Ben Farrales is widely recognized in the country as the “Dean of Philippine Fashion” for championing the use of local fabrics and textiles and transforming them into elegant and wearable attires that are truly Filipino.
But among his countless and iconic creations, the revered designer always highlights Muslim fashion to pay homage to his roots in Mindanao’s Cotabato City.
Farrales was born in the independent city on July 1, 1932 to parents Paulina and Salvador. Mang Ben, as Farrales is lovingly called in fashion circles, credits his elder sister Aida as instrumental in developing his trademark Muslim-inspired ternos.
According to angpilipino.wordpress.com, Aida was married to former Sen. Salipada Pendatun who also hails from Cotabato. “It was she who encouraged the young Farrales to design and make clothes for her, which she would wear to various social and political functions. As his works were undeniably elegant, the rest, as they say, is history,” recounted the blogsite.
While Farrales moved to Manila to apprentice with famous Filipino fashion masters, eventually putting up his own atelier along Mabini Street in Manila, he made sure to spotlight his Muslim-inspired designs.
He further expanded his portfolio by weaving together tribal elements and indigenous materials, presenting Filipinianas that are almost works of art, while constantly playing with vibrant and colorful designs. Farrales’ creations are unmistakably Filipino yet unarguably world-class.
In recent years, different organizations and institutions have featured Farrales’ extensive collections via retrospective fashion shows.
In 2013, he closed the Philippine Fashion Week and there, he unveiled different suites of Muslim-inspired attires dating from the ‘70s to ‘90s. The pieces highlighted colorful, handwoven malongs, floor-length kaftans with ethnic prints, and full-body chiffon clothing with golden appliqués and veils.
A good number of these Farrales masterpieces were once again shown in a pre-birthday fashion show and exhibit staged by the Filipino Heritage Festival Inc. and the SM Malls for the beloved designers. The runway spectacle also enjoyed the support of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
This latest tribute for Farrales was also at the SM Mega Fashion Hall in Mandaluyong City. It featured the 83-year-old designer’s muses Annette Coronel, Celine Magat-Lopez, Suyen Chi-Sia, Izza Gonzalez-Agana, Marina Benipayo, Patty Betita, Desiree Abesamis, as well as up and coming models Aya Abesamis, Justine Gabionza, and Emerald Villahermosa, proudly and beautifully wearing the Dean of Philippine Fashion’s creations from the south.