MJ Benitez didn’t envision a fashion stylist’s career for herself — her first love had been fashion photography. But working in a fashion magazine opened her eyes to the breadth of the industry. She found that her keen eye for visuals helped her in putting together fashion narratives.
“I had a great mentorship. I learned from some of the best editors, who taught me that having a story in mind while putting together a look was very important,” says MJ.
An avid traveler, she makes it a point to visit South Korea every year; it’s part of her philosophy to discover new nooks, places and landscapes — her goal is to have her age match up to the number of countries she’s visited.
And all the traveling has done her good, it seems, as MJ has become one of the most highly respected stylists in the Philippines. Apart from serving as contributing editor on several fashion publications, she’s also dabbled in film, print and digital campaigns, for big local brands, and runway and look-book collections for Filipino designers.
Her Travel Style
1 Early to the airport or cutting it close?
Three hours early, always
2 Light or heavy packer?
Super heavy packer. It’s a problem
3 Most memorable airport purchase?
Snacks. Whatever delicacy that country has, I’ll buy it
4 Adventure seeker or solid leisure?
5 First leisurely thing you do when you arrive at your destination?
Cafés that I’ve researched ahead of time
6 Shop or check out local cuisine?
Shop, after a little caffeine
7 Hotel or hostel?
8 Best way to unwind onboard?
9 Ideal holiday in four words?
Chill and no crowds
10 Most Instagrammable place you’ve ever been?
Bondi Beach in Sydney
11 Preferred travel camera?
A digital Sony handheld
12 Favorite travel film?
13 What makes you an ideal person to travel with?
I enjoy early starts and I maximize every day of my trip
14 What attracts you to a destination?
How unfamiliar it is. The more different it looks from Manila, the more interested I am in seeing it
15 Three essentials in your carry-on?
Power bank, sunglasses and my camera
16 Favorite road-trip album?
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles
17 Favorite travel outfit?
I love layering for the weather, so there’s always a jacket or sweater, jeans and sneakers
18 Biggest travel fashion no-no?
I don’t believe in no-no’s. People should have fun with clothes!
19 Fashion designer, dead or alive, you’d love to have a creative chat with?
Phoebe Philo. I love her forever
20 Dream person to dress?
Kiko Mizuhara. Or G-Dragon. I’d also be okay with just meeting him
The fashion stylist takes us through her favorite spots for ideas and new pieces.
- Daikanyama, Tokyo, Japan — “This is a quiet neighborhood with a lot of personality. My favorite parts are the alleys, where there are small vintage shops specializing in designer clothing.”
- Sydney, Australia — “The place is reflective of its people. When you visit, you’ll want to wear more color and linens and keep things relaxed.”
- Garosu-gil, Seoul, South Korea — “I’m in Seoul every year, and this is a place I return to time and again. It has a great mix of fashion, beauty and coffee shops, and it’s never too crowded.”