(This story first appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer a few weeks ago. I’d like to share a shorter version with you. Watch out for this young man as his images grace a Bench and Bench Fix outlet near you.)
AS of last count, Korean actor Lee Min Ho has 60 pairs of shoes and a huge number of coats in his closet. He may need some of those shoes soon, but the coats are probably useless when he visits the Philippines before the year ends as one of Bench’s newest Korean endorsers.
“I love to buy nice coats,” Lee, wearing a pair of polka-dotted Chucks, skinny blue jeans and a dark gray cardigan worn over a teal cotton tee, said in Korean through an interpreter. “I also love to collect distinctive pairs of shoes. What you see right now is my casual look. It’s how I dress on most days.”
After the Philippine market’s warm reception to K-pop stars Dong Hae and Si Won, Bench has signed up Lee, star of such hit TV dramas as “Boys Over Flowers” and “City Hunter,” as its latest endorser. The Manila-based global brand sent a team of publicists and stylists to Seoul sometime in
June to oversee Lee’s shoot.
His image will soon be splashed all over the Philippines through billboards, print ads and in-store collaterals for Bench apparel and Bench Fix hair-care and styling products.
“I’m looking forward to visiting Manila for the first time,” said Lee, 26, who’s currently shooting another TV drama titled “The Fate.” “I heard that I have a lot of fans there.”
Lee may be on his way to becoming a global star, but he continues to toe the line his handlers have set when it comes to answering certain questions. Details of his love life, for one, are off limits to media, as are certain points of his Bench contract.
He learned how popular Bench is in the Philippines only after signing the contract. But he already liked the brand even before he and his group inked a deal with Suyen Corp., the company behind Bench.
“I like Bench because it’s very casual yet stylish,” he said. “Especially now, after wearing several sets in the course of the photo shoot, the style Bench offers is really one of the styles I prefer.”
Lee has tried 12 different looks, including pairing colored and skinny jeans with basic tees and shirts. He cites the product for its versatility and broad appeal, which are perfect for relating to a bigger audience.
Theme park chic
“I don’t wear colorful jeans all the time, but when the occasion doesn’t require me to look formal, I have no problems wearing one,” he said. “Bench’s latest looks are perfect on a sunny day, especially when I feel like going to the theme park.”
Although he’s partial to black, Lee doesn’t mind wearing “pretty” colors. He prefers “casual and clean” styles such as knitted shirts and cardigans to punk or grungy looks. Unlike a good number of stars these days, Lee isn’t dependent on a stylist.
“But I have a stylist with me whenever I go shopping for clothes,” he admitted. “It helps to have a second opinion.”
Lee has also noticed the same growing confidence and independence among men when it comes to fashion. Men, these days, he said, have become more concerned about their looks and the styles they wear. Unlike in the past, most men aren’t as shy anymore in paying attention to themselves and their appearance.
“I believe men who take care of themselves physically have a higher set of values. Since they know how to value themselves, they also probably know how to value others more,” he said.
As for his career, Lee welcomes various roles and show biz projects that may come his way. He doesn’t have any specific plans right now, but he has promised himself to give every project he’s involved in his best.
Open to possibilities
“I’m still young, and my priority is to focus on being a better actor,” he said. “And part of being a good actor is to be open to different types of roles. I also welcome and value suggestions from friends and fans.”
It doesn’t take much to please Lee either. His idea of a perfect day may not sound as exciting compared to his public persona as an intense and driven individual who never fails to attract the ladies.
“When I don’t have any show biz commitments, I try to make up for lost sleep until I’m not sleepy anymore,” he said with a wide grin. “To me, an ideal day is sleeping from 13 to 14 hours.”