1st peak: Lesley Mobo celebrates with real-life farmers, farm girls

Bench collaboration, to show this Sunday, brings the designer back to the Filipino’s roots—the rural life and its bounty

The pandemic made London-based Filipino designer Lesley Mobo realize a lot of things. “I think we learned a lot from the pandemic and I think it’s crucial that we remember what’s important about life,” Mobo said.

Mobo can’t stress enough that we should celebrate life often, connect with everything that truly matters, such as nature, tradition, celebrate family, friends and love ones, eat healthy—connect things that really matter in life.

That is why Mobo’s latest collaboration with Bench—his third with the global brand that champions local creatives—is about celebration. “Celebrate life, celebrate being Pinoy,” Mobo said. “Bench is a great Pinoy brand so it’s perfect.”

On him, Gumamela print striped shirt, Bench; on her, carabao print graphic backpack, “Island girl” shirt, Bench

But this third collection is slightly different. “My collaboration with Bench is all about these positive elements, a celebration of everything good about being a Filipino and to be proud of it.  A bit less fashion a bit more authentic, closer to home.”

Masaganang Bukid is what his collection is called. Mobo, who grew up in Aklan, then moved to London to study and eventually work, has kept his roots—rural life. The collection is a celebration of abundant rural life in the Philippines and its rich cultural and agricultural heritage.

“Masaganang Bukid” hoodie, Bench

It is part of Bench Fashion Week running from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 2022 at Bench Tower in BGC. Mobo runs his collection on the last day, Oct. 2.

The collection is also a tribute to Filipino farmers and farming communities who till the land to this day. “Our country’s cultural and agricultural history runs deep in the rural areas, playing a critical role not only in keeping our countryside beautiful and prosperous but also in keeping our unique Philippine traditions alive,” Mobo said.

Terno graphic tee, Bench x Lesley Mobo installation during Bench Fashion Week 2022 Photo by John Mark Tubo

That is why the images of his pieces are mostly floral, fruits and carabao graphics.

Mobo got real-life young farmers and teen farm girls to be the collective face of his campaign. He even shot the photos himself in his province. “My muse is the everyday Filipino—the “Toto,” the “DoDong” and “Indays” in the villages, with their beautiful glowing brown skin.”

Pineapple embroidered varsity jacket, Bench

Mobo recalled how the idea of the third collaboration and to launch the collection as a show all came quickly. “I was back in London after a long 11 months of lockdown in the Philippines. Ben Chan, Miguel Pastor and Noel Manapat invited me to join them on a business trip to Madrid and we discussed about the pandemic, people we lost (friends, relative, etc.) and life.

Bench x Lesley Mobo graphic backpacks and bags installation during Bench Fashion Week 2022 Photo by John Mark Tubo

“From there came the idea of making something positive and to celebrate life. Initially the idea was just to release the collection in stores but we decided at the last minute to do a show,” Mobo said.

The theme is less fashion and is more about connectivity. “The goal is to celebrate those people who provided us food during the pandemic—the farmers.”

Graphic varsity jacket, Bench

Though everything now has gone online and digital, Mobo reiterated that there’s still magic in putting up an actual live show. That is why after two years, Bench decided to bring back Bench Fashion Week and to launch Mobo’s Masaganang Bukid collection as part of the show line-up. “It’s important that we feel we are all alive and things are moving again,” Mobo said. “I have done collabs with other mass retail brands as well. But this one for me is an exciting one.

Tropical print graphic tees and polos at the Bench x Lesley Mobo pop-up installation during Bench Fashion Week 2022
“Island girl” embroidered shirt, Bench

Originally published in TheDiarist.Ph

Cover photo caption: Young Filipino farmer from Aklan Rodgie Azopaldo

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