Singaporean/British designer working in London
Born: Singapore, 1949 (one source says 1956); moved to London, 1968. Education: Graduated in fashion from St. Martin's School of Art, London. Career: Formed own company, Benny Ong Ltd., 1977; represented Britain in the Fashion Extravaganza in Milan, 1978; lectured in fashion at St. Martin's School of Art and Newcastle Polytechnic, England, 1979; introduced Private Label business designs for Austin Reed, London, 1983; launched Sunday and Ong by Benny Ong lines, 1988; produced private label designs for House of Fraser stores, 1988; created International Collection diffusion line, ONG, 1989; introduced third label, Bene, 1992; opened two Benny Ong boutiques in Singapore, 1992; guest lecturer to BA honors program fashion majors, Surrey Institute, 2001; also corporate uniform designer from 1986 with clients including BAA and British Telecom. Address: 3A Moreton Terrace, London SW1V 2NS, England.
Mulvagh, Jane, Vogue History of Twentieth Century Fashion, London, 1988.
Hyde, Nina S., "No One Takes a Vacation Just to Shop," in the Washington Post, 17 April 1977.
Freedman, Lisa, and Barbara Griggs, "Secrets of Diana's Wardrobe," in the Sunday Express Magazine (London), 12 June 1983.
Theis, Tammy, "Wearing Linen to the Office? Here's a New Wrinkle for You," in the Dallas Morning News, 11 June 1986.
"Hot Fashion—Stolen Seat Belts—Causes Problems for Airline," in the AP Newswire, 29 June 2000.
"The Belgian Wave," in the AP Newswire, 22 January 2001.
"Benny Ong," available online at the Fashion Page, www.fashionz.co.uk , 20 August 2001.
"The Premier Collections," available online at the Fashion Page," www.fashionz.co.uk , 20 August 2001.
"Undergraduate Programmes," available online at the Surrey Institute," www.surrart.ac.uk , 20 August 2001.
Benny Ong is a designer of pretty, relaxed clothes that are charming and flattering to wear. Born in Singapore of Chinese descent, he moved to London in 1968 to study fashion design at St. Martin's School of Art. Today he retains his Singaporean connections with twice yearly visits that consolidate his successful design combination of Eastern philosophy with Western glamor.
He formed Benny Ong Ltd. in 1977 and presented a well-received debut collection quickly snapped up by two of London's top stores, Harrods and Selfridges. The collection set the tone for Ong's later work, with exquisite loose fitting, hand-sprayed silk chiffons, and jerseys. His successful debut year also saw Ong becoming a founding member of the prestigious London Designer Collections, which now represents the cream of British designers.
Expansion of the business has proved no problem, owing to the avid press interest and acclaim for the label since its inception. In addition to the designer range, the company began producing several diffusion lines for the middle price market. The first, in 1980, the International Collection, featured predominantly silk special occasion clothes; this was followed by Sunday, which presented less formal occasion clothes. The Ong by Benny Ong range was produced in 1988 and sells throughout Europe.
Fabrics for Ong are always classical, traditional, and stylish. As well as glamorous silk eveningwear fabrics, he has easy handkerchief linens, plain or in tiny checks; crisp white cottons and voiles for pretty, oversize shirts; or stonewashed crêpes for simple jackets. In 1983 the company began promotions for the European Silk Commission, with major fashion shows and wide coverage in international fashion magazines. Simple and graceful knitwear and cashmere ranges were added to the collection in 1985 and were immediately snapped up in huge quantities by the New York retailer Barneys.
Diana, the late Princess of Wales, was a frequent Ong customer. She commissioned dresses and suits for her first official visit to Australia in 1985. The exposure generated by having possibly the most prestigious customer in the UK led to an invitation to participate in a fashion show on the BBC television program Pebble Mill at One, that same year.
As well as producing ranges of clothes for the more glamorous end of the fashion market, Ong has worked on several corporate clothing commissions. In 1986 he was invited, along with five other eminent British designers, to tender for the British Airports Authority corporate clothing project. He won the contract, which led to further invitations to design for a new corporate clothing image for British Telecom and a prestigious clothing contract for the reopening of the internationally famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
Ong's other activities have included guest lecture programs in fashion design at St. Martin's College of Art and invitations to speak at various fashion forums for students and the trade, covering a range of topics from design to management. After the presentation of a first full fashion show to top buyers and press in 1979, his company further expanded into the private label business, designing a young and well-made range for Austin Reed in 1983 and branded merchandise for the designer section of the popular catalogue of Great Universal Stores, along with designers like Roland Klein, Jasper Conran, and Jean Muir. With colleagues Owen Gastor and Steve Stewart, in 2001, Ong guest lectured at the Surrey Institute to students in the BA honors program in fashion.
Ultimately, Benny Ong is best known for his eveningwear. He can handle beautiful fabrics in a sensitive and refined manner, producing conventional yet becoming garments for a wealthy clientéle.
updated by Mary Ellen Snodgrass