2006 marks the 40th anniversary of Benetton. See the live webcast of the exclusive catwalk at the Pompidou Centre in Paris today, October 10 at 12:30PM EST. The Benetton Group reached a scope of 5,000 stores in 120 countries.
At the heart of the Benetton brands are four siblings, three brothers and one sister. Luciano, the oldest, is perhaps the better known. Famous for posing naked for a poster plastered all over town, Luciano is responsible for marketing, communications, and market research. In 1993, when Luciano was 58 and a republican senator, he agreed to pose for a humanitarian cause. The photo depicted him wearing only a courageous smile and a snipe that said "I want my clothes back", "Empty your closets". The campaign yielded a collection of over 1M lbs. -- 460,000 kilograms -- of clothes.
Gilberto, the next brother, is the head of group finance. Carlo, the youngest, is responsible for production. The second by birth, yet at the heart of the family business, is Giuliana. Now responsible for product, quality and costs, Giuliana the child grew up believing that one day she would be working the machines to produce wonderfully colored wool creations. She liked the idea of creating something from nothing, of starting from a thread and making what was in her head. In a recent interview, Giuliana was dubbed the soul of the most colored brand in the world -- flexible like a thread of wool yet strong as steel. She conveys how important it is to believe in your dreams.
Today Giuliana management style it to allow people the freedom to go to her when necessary. She remains curious and continues to search for input to improve, build, and find solutions. This is her challenge and her personality.
I remember the one shop near the Feltrinelli bookstore in center city Bologna where we would buy soft, colored and stylish sweaters at a price affordable to students. Oliviero Toscani brash and provocative photographic publicity aside, I always thought that the Benetton brand stood for much more than quality at a reasonable price; it stood for lofty ideals of a world united in purpose and humanity. It connected what we had with who we were. See some of the institutional campaigns here.
One of the most ambition projects by Benetton is the Stock Exchange of Visions, an interactive installation and web site created to promote awareness of the future of the planet. The installation will be accessible at the exhibit Fabrica: Le Yeux Ouverts at the Pompidou. It consists of a series of interviews with artists, scientists, sociologists, futurologists and people who have a vision of the future. The topics discussed include environment, culture, resources, economy and society.
The texture-rich Benetton stores, built in the most exclusive places in town, extend the entrepreneurial family storytelling to a learning center.
Fabrica is Benetton's communication research centre, a creative think tank located in a 18th century villa in the Veneto countryside. Restored and expanded by Japanese architect Tadao Ando [image of agora' by night], the center is divided into departments dedicated to the realization of ideas. The center presents opportunities for selected young artists and researchers from all over the world to develop real projects in visual communication, 3D design, interactive, video and cinema, photography, music, creative writing and Colors magazine. From the Fabrica site:
The guiding principle of Fabrica is exploiting diversity as the basis of global communication and finding images which concentrate and express strong, universal issues, such as racism, fear and world hunger. In an era of economic and cultural 'globalization', creativity cannot afford to be ethnocentric.
So the challenge for Fabrica is to bring together different cultural stimuli from all over the world in order to pick out completely new concepts which everyone can understand, and which carry messages with strong emotional content.
The word fabrica is Latin for workshop, the space where teams experiment new forms of communication in a hands-on conversation whose plurality is guaranteed by the mix of young people from countries with different languages, cultures and attitudes.
The Benetton siblings show no signs of slowing down. The future indeed begins at 40.