We speak with a long-time STAY about the experience
It’s been a while since BENCH/ appointed in-demand K-pop group Stray Kids as the newest addition to their global BENCH setter family. They stand next to the star-studded lineup, such as fellow labelmates ITZY, South Korean actor Ji Chang-Wook and Squid Game star Wi Ha-jun. Much to their loyal fans’ glee, the eight-piece act composed of Bang Chan, Lee Know, Changbin, Hyunjin, Han, Felix, Seungmin and I.N fronted the brand’s Everyday collection, posing in quintessential BENCH/ classics and basics. We’re sure you saw their billboards along EDSA Guadalupe sometime last year.
So, it only seems natural that they visit Manila and bond with their Filipino fanbase called STAYs. That finally happened last January 20, when the Stay with Bench (Stray Kids Fan Meet) was underway at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Ahead of the fan meeting, the Stray Kids members caught up with media representatives in an exclusive press conference. Emerging in a white-and-denim ensemble, the group repped the brand while staying loyal to Stray Kids’ style philosophy. They introduced themselves to the press with their signature chant before sitting down and answering questions. Leader Bang Chan speaks on the group’s feelings about their appointment as global Bench setters. “It’s a really great honor,” he starts. “I feel like it’s just really, really nice to reach out to STAYs in the Philippines and STAYs globally. So thank you for having us.”
Known for their distinct sound, powerful choreography and often humorous personalities, it’s no secret that Stray Kids have a faithful fanbase rallying behind them. Eager STAYs who got to cop tickets to the exclusive fan meeting already lined up during the press conference. This showed that rain or shine, they’ll show up for their faves. In case you didn't know, the Stay with Bench (Stray Kids Fan Meet) serves as the group’s first physical meeting with their fans since their Unveil Tour ‘I AM…’ in Manila in 2019. The first meeting also left a mark on the members, as they still fondly recall hearing the screams of thousands of STAYs cheering for then-rookie Stray Kids.
So you can just imagine how the entire crowd erupted when they saw their favorite group after four long years. Wonder speaks to Mandz, a long-time STAY who only got to see Stray Kids IRL through the fan meet. Yes, despite following them since their self-titled survival show from 2018. “I wasn’t even planning to go, to be honest. But I might not be able to attend [their March] concert because of my schedule lately,” she explains. “They're pretty famous for being quirky and funny while playing games, so it was good to witness those things live instead of a screen. Plus points that they sang two of their title tracks!” The songs in question? God’s Menu and Case 143.
Fan meetings are less about performances and more about creating moments with their followers, so BENCH/ and Stray Kids prepared a couple of segments for everyone to enjoy. From playing with giant jenga blocks, impersonating each other, painting BENCH/ shirts (that they raffled off) and a new version of the whisper challenge, Stray Kids sent the entire arena into a frenzy. “Definitely the shout-in-silence game,” says Mandz, pointing out her favorite segment. “I love watching different K-pop groups play that particular game on YouTube, so it was weird and cool seeing them doing it.”
But becoming a global brand ambassador also means they have a positive influence on their fans. This includes their approaches to fashion. To Mandz, that means going out of her comfort zone. “I remember Han and Felix saying in an interview that they have worn stage outfits they didn't think they looked good in. But the feeling disappeared once they put it on and when STAYs complimented and talked to them about it.” That encouraged her to experiment more with her fit: a pleated skirt, oversized tee and two It-accessories: a baggy glove and leg warmers.
— BENCH/ (@benchtm) January 20, 2023
Safe to say that the evening ended on a high note, with the wave of STAYs eagerly sending them off. However, that’s not the end of Stray Kids and their love story with the Philippines. Come March 11 and 12, the boyband will rock the Mall of Asia Arena for their Maniac World Tour in Manila. Ticket details and selling dates are yet to be announced, so STAYs can still save up. 👀
Photos Bench/ and Mandz Torreno
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver