United Colors of Benetton makes a flamboyant debut at Milan Fashion Week
The newly appointed artistic director talks about his vision for the design label
What is United Colors of Benetton without a splash of…well, colour? This season, the label (helmed by its artistic director, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac) made its debut on the runways of Milan in its signature, vibrant style. The energy and drive of de Castelbajac, combined with the vision of Luciano Benetton, came together as “The Rainbow Machine”—a technicolour feast of yellows, reds, greens, and blues that paid homage to Benetton’s great industrial tradition. And of course, the showcase retained the iconic colours of green and white in a subtle, yet eye-catching manner.
On the larger goal, de Castelbajac said, “I want to reawaken all Benetton’s capabilities. I like to compare this company and its potential to a “sleeping beauty” that has not been kissed for a long time. I want every Benetton store – housed in huge, light-filled, high profile buildings, strategically located in the world’s biggest cities – to attract customers and visitors, like art galleries. I want our stores to become vibrant places buzzing with life. There is no other company like this one.”
This fantasy was brought to life on the runway of Milan through unconventional and avant-garde designs—super puffy jackets, rainbow stripes, and a whole lot of denim in coed styles. Disney played the protagonist, as several motifs —an animated Mickey Mouse, Charley Brown and other Peanut characters—were worked into the designs. UCB also paid homage to its wool tradition through a cartoon-esque sheep, that danced across the collection, in various hues.
Tasked with breathing new life into the label, de Castelbajac let us in on his methodical, yet mad, approach to design. “There are so many things that stimulate my creativity: I dream, imagine, create and ask. Here my wishes are fulfilled with impressive speed. This is a unique asset that I want to take advantage of to create a collection with a quality DNA and an accessible price. This is my mission at Benetton: create luxury for everyone. A dear friend of mine, the brilliant Franco Moschino, coined the expression “Cheap & Chic”. His was a very modern way of thinking, decades before the advent of Zara, H&M, Cos… Today when we say “cheap” we tend to give the word a negative connotation, but cheap also means inexpensive, economical, affordable. So my mission is to design something that is truly “cheap and chic”. To me, “chic” means beauty, modernity, good cuts and quality. Something that lasts.”