It was not business as usual at Paris show

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Luciano Benetton
Luciano Benetton

Sravanthi Challapalli

Benetton chose to highlight its commitment to the society by throwing open a month-long exhibition

  • Benetton has 5,000 outlets
  • Indian arm to play a larger role

    PARIS: United Colours of Benetton, which recently turned 40, sees India, along with China, as a `shining star' of its future.

    However, at the anniversary celebrations in Paris, it was not its business plans that took the centre-stage. The Italian apparel group chose to highlight its involvement with the society by throwing open a month-long exhibition, `Les Yeux Ouverts' (Eyes Open to the World and the Future), of projects encouraged and funded by Fabrica, its communications research centre, and its association with the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP). The celebrations also featured a fashion show of Benetton's fall/winter collection, the first time Benetton fashions appeared on the catwalk.

    Benetton is donating resources to help the WFP bring clean water and healthy meals to more than 75,000 children in Northern Uganda. Benetton and the WFP began their partnership in 2003 when the former even shot a `Food for Life' campaign, which, incidentally, was the only one of all Benetton's advertising to be displayed at the Paris event.

    Northern Uganda has seen unending conflict for nearly 20 years now, forcing 1.6 million people to flee their homes and move into shelters. Benetton's donation will help schools in camps across the North buy stoves, pots and water tanks.

    Fabrica has partnered many organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), U.N. and SOS Racisme as well as cultural bodies and museums in various countries.

    Set up in 1994, Fabrica's activities span various fields, including cinema, music, interactive and new media, writing, photography and graphic design. With the initiative of group Chairman, Luciano Benetton, and Oliviero Toscani, the photographer who has shot several well-known Benetton campaigns, Fabrica grants young professionals from across the world a one-year scholarship to work on projects they have dreamed. The exhibition at Paris' Centre Pompidou featured several themed photo projects and interactive installations in which viewers could take part.

    Renzo di Renzo, Creative Director, Fabrica, said, "Many organisations have no skills in communication so we help them communicate better, we react to what people are asking us.''

    Some of the interactive projects included the Tuned Stairway, developed by five people from different countries, in which each step of the stairs, as they are used, produces a note of music; Flipbook, which allows users to draw, post and share animations online (and now a Web phenomenon with more than two lakh animations and 15 million visitors); 10 x 10, an Internet art project that is programmed to identify and collect the 100 most significant words and images in three different zones of the world by monitoring the news regularly and Colors Notebook, named after Benetton's magazine, which gave expression to the concerns of people living in various places across the world, including countries where freedom of expression is under threat.

    Founded in 1965, the 1.8 billion-euro Benetton Group is present in 120 countries across the world with 5,000 outlets. Listed on Milan, Frankfurt and New York stock exchanges, the company's brands also include fashion brand Sisley, leisurewear brand Playlife and streetwear brand Killer Loop. Known for its advertising, often controversial, it has also been involved with sport (rugby, volleyball, basketball and Formula One).

    The group's plans for its Indian arm have it playing a larger role in Southeast Asia from sometime next year, expanding retail presence and bringing in some new brands.

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