Art meets couture with Benetton’s latest collaboration

At the recently concluded Lotus Make-up India Fashion Week held in New Delhi, Benetton India fittingly invited Rhea Kapoor to unveil and launch #UnitedbyArt, its exclusive collectible menswear line. Like her sibling Sonam, Rhea has earned serious social media cred for her eagerness to assimilate visual art into couture. Earlier this year, she posted on Instagram a gorgeous silhouette of her in an Anamika Khanna lehenga, spray painted by Toronto- based Babneet Lakhesar, aka Babbu the painter. At the #UnitedbyArt reveal, Kapoor flaunted the brand’s menswear, self-styling a dapper, androgynous look with a belt over her blazer that defined her waistline, and a light green polo that was in sync with her handbag. 

What’s more, she managed not to detract attention from the intended showstoppers: a capsule collection of special polo shirts with artworks by Somenath Maity, Bhaskar Rao Botcha, Biswajit Mondal, Julio D’Souza, Sachin Jaltare, Pappu Bardhan, Sachindra Nath Jha, Siddharth Shingade, Siddharth, Aarushi Kumar Patel, Bandana Kumari, Iloosh Judge Ahluwalia, Oinam Dilip, and Suchit Sahni. Playing on the theme of “social integration” with which the brand has been synonymous for many years, the line was the result of a cross-generational art collaboration meant to empower artists to use fashion as a storytelling medium.  

Talent Powerhouse Rhea Kapoor Sundeep Chugh MD CEO of Benetton India at the launch of Benettons collectible art line 1

At the launch, Kapoor also kicked off an Instagram Live auction, asking popular fashion influencers to support the initiative by competing with each other to be the first to secure “1,965 likes” on a post of one of the collectibles, which featured an artwork by Bandana Kumari that portrayed a lithe, non- threatening lioness with painted fingernails surrounded by fellow animals. The figure itself—1965—was symbolic as the year of Benetton’s conception as a brand. For Kapoor, the link with the brand validated its place in the evolution of her own fashion aesthetic. “It is a brand that a generation has grown up wearing and connects with, not only within the realm of fashion, but for its path-breaking socially relevant campaigns over the years,” she said. “The #UnitedbyArt is a commendable effort to celebrate fashion and art and would love to see more and more artists being recognised under the realm of this initiative.”

Artist Oinam Dilip

Several of the artist collaborators, selected by New Delhi’s Gallery One, had met each other at an art camp in Goa in November last year that was facilitated by Benetton India, who offered them a platform for dialogue and to exchange techniques, skills and ideas about their use of materials. The artist selection was meant to encompass a broad range of stylistic concerns and figurations. Several of the artworks that now constitute the edition line were conceived and produced at the art camp.

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Sundeep Chugh, managing director and CEO, Benetton India, feels that the line is in keeping with the brand’s commitment to creativity and social relevance. “Art is very close to Benetton, and this special collectible line is our commitment to empower the artists and bring them to the forefront. We are proud to see the paintings come alive with the first collectible line. Every artwork has a creative story to tell, keeping the core of Benetton in mind.”  

Artist Aarushi Kumar Patel

The line’s launch marks an important step in bridging a perceivable disconnect between visual art and fashion, potentially setting a precedent by making both fields more accessible to each other.

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