Italian fashion house marks 15 years of colorful shock tactics

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Italian fashion house marks 15 years of colorful shock tactics

Remember the shocking Benetton advertisement from 1991 that featured a newborn girl with her umbilical cord still attached to her mother? The photograph, taken by Oliviero Toscani, marked the launch of a new magazine with one guiding principle ― diversity is good. With this simple, attention-grabbing ad campaign, COLORS, a quarterly magazine was founded in the same year, from an idea by Luciano Benetton and Oliviero Toscani under the direction of Tibor Kalman.
At the National Library of Korea in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, reproductions of the 69 covers of COLORS magazine are on display under the title “COLORS - 15/69 - 15 Years in 69 Covers” from Nov.14 to Dec. 9. Organized by the Italian Embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute in Seoul, the exhibition is one of two new Italian exhibitions to hit Seoul this month. Both of these exhibitions have been organized by the International Center for Research on Communication, or Fabrica (a Latin word which translates as “workshop” in English).
Created in 1994, Fabrica is Benetton’s communication research center and it delves into various areas of the arts and communication media including design, music, cinema, photography, publishing and the Internet.
Over the past 15 years, COLORS has dealt with universal themes that have been the main problems of our times, including human rights abuses, slavery, climate change, the fight against diseases (especially its AIDS campaign), animal cruelty and war.
COLORS has produced numerous memorable images and editorials. In 1993, their fourth issue, “Race,” started the magazine’s monothematic structure which continues to this day. With its 1994 issue,“AIDS,” the magazine managed to provide unbiased, accurate information about prevention of the disease with a bit of its characteristic blend of humor and irony -―including an article on latex fashions.
Many controversies have followed the magazine over the last 15 years. For the cover image of the Spring 1999 issue “Water,” COLORS showed a small boy urinating, symbolizing a celebration of the “vitality of water.” The cover was considered pornographic in Switzerland and sales there were halted.
With changes in the social climate, COLORS evolved as well. Its 2001 issue, “Refugees,” started a new direction for COLORS. The issue was dedicated entirely to a refugee camp in Tanzania with the support of the United Nations refugee agency and signaled the beginning of the magazine’s focus on different communities.

“COLORS - 15/69 - 15 Years in 69 Covers” is showing in the National Library of Korea, in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, from Nov. 14 to Dec. 9. The nearest subway station is Seocho Station, line No. 2, exit 5. For more information, call (02) 796-0634 or visit

by Cho Jae-eun
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