United Colours of Toscani
by Oliviero Toscani
It was Oliviero Toscani, the photographer, who turned every exicting idea about fashion and advertising on its head by taking up issues that were not only far removed from the imperatives of commerce, but were unglamorous, unpopular and invariably controversial. Besides catapulting the Benetton brand to the top, his pictures generated awareness, debate, and even funds for the right causes. Aids, violence, war, racial discrimination, these were some of the issues he focussed on. Characterised by these universal themes, the Benetton Group’s advertising campaigns are not only a means of communication, they are an expression of our times... and a confrontation of ideas.These pictures have appeared over the years as part of Benetton’s conmmnication strategy that began in the spring of 1984, spotlighting groups of young people of different races and colours as they play and laugh and live together. It appeared in 14 countries and sparked off a racial polemic South Africa: the photos featuring white and black youths together, published in magazines targeted at the black population, were refused by publications reserved for whites. Denouncing intolerance of every kind, addressing political and social issues that concern the world, Oliviero Toscani’s work continues to stir our conscience.