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Jean-Charles de Castelbajac: can he restore colour to Benetton?

By FashionUnited


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London -- Italian brand Benetton has named Jean-Charles de Castelbajac as the new artistic director of both its men's and women's collections. The veteran fashion designer - who made a name for himself with his bold and colourful artistic flair - hopes to revitalise the brand’s designs.

Fashion for everyone

Having dressed Pope John Paul II (1997) and Lady Gaga, and having collaborated with Max Mara, Ellesse, and Courrèges, de Castelbajac has repeatedly proved his worth in the fashion industry. Implementing an eclectic mix of punk and pop, his style is characterised by the use of bright colours and warhol icons, mixing old and new with a touch of irony and insolence.

De Castelbajac made his debut into the world of fashion in 1968 when he created a label in collaboration with his mother. Ahead of his time, he launched the "anti-fashion" movement before the trend’s first ripples began to spread into the fashion world.


The eternal optimist he is, de Castelbajac has always imagined a joyous and multicoloured fashion world. Art, cartoons, teddies and knitwear (one of his favourites) all intermingle and mix with humour in his creative mind.

"United Colors of Benetton and I have always had the same vision of fashion, characterised by a passion for knitting, and a love for vibrant colours and pop," de Castelbajac said. “Together, United Colors of Benetton and I will seek to create the wardrobe of tomorrow, bringing beauty and style to everyday life, at affordable prices for everyone. "

Revitalising Benetton

It has to be said that the Italian brand is in need. Launched in the early 60s by Luciano Benetton as a family business, the brand quickly became an empire. It all began with sister Giuliana knitting a sweater for her brother. From there they began selling their hand-made clothing door to door, before opening their first shop in 1963. In 1966, they opened their first factory, and the first United Colors store was inaugurated in Paris in 1969.

In the heart of their collections, the family remained close (Luciano took care of the marketing, Giuliana of the fabrication, while two other brothers, Gilberto and Carlo, took care of the finance and production). In the 1980s, Benetton bought Sisley (in 1981), developed a line for children and a range of watches (in 1988) and created their first perfume for women.

However, despite their success, Benetton seems to have lost some of the soul and passion that it possessed at the beginning of the decade that began to be reflected in the company’s losses. In 2017 the brand lost 180 million euros, the largest loss in its history. With the arrival of Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Luciano Benetton (82 years) returned to the helm of the company last year, after having entrusted it to his son Alessandro since 2012.

In an attempt to revitalise his once-great company, Luciano Benetton entrusted the image of the brand to photographer Oliviero Toscani, who signed a contract for the brand’s campaigns between 1982 and 2000. While a challenge for Jean-Charles de Castelbajac (now 69 years old), the designer hopes that the move will mutually benefit himself and the Italian fashion brand. De Castelbajac’s first collections will be available in stores in 2019.

This article was originally written for FashionUnited.FR by Céline Vautard. Translated and edited by Huw Hughes.

Photo credit: Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, courtesy of Benetton.

Jean Charles de Castelbajac