Oliviero Toscani is back at Benetton pushing the boundaries of fashion ads

2017 Oliviero Toscani Benetton ad

Oliviero Toscani Benetton ad

Oliviero Toscani, the man who gave Benetton one of the fashion industry’s highest profiles during the 1980s and 90s, is back with the brand that he once art directed.

His images back then were frequently controversial and more than once were deemed to have crossed the line, leading to an eventual split with the Italian clothing giant. But in an age where consumers expect their brands to be part of, and even to drive, the conversation about social good, his approach seems more relevant today, and his return makes commercial sense for a brand seeking to re-ignite interest inits offer.

His first campaign is actually quite tame compared to earlier images of prisoners on death row, an Aids suffer on his deathbed, and a nun and a priest kissing. But the image of an Italian primary school featuring a class of kids of different ethnicities still makes a powerful point about multiculturalism and immigration.

“There were 28 schoolchildren from 13 different countries and four different continents,” Toscani told The Guardian. “They studied together, they were educated together and they will shape future society.”

Benetton, which remains loss-making, is still a major force but is less of an influencer brand than it was back in the days when Toscani’s campaigns were always newsworthy. It’s understood that Luciano Benetton, who has returned to lay a more active role in the business, was crucial in getting Toscani back on board as the firm works through a turnaround and seeks to re-establish its relevance in the modern fashion sector.

Not that the company has shrunk from embracing issue-based campaigns since Toscani left. Earlier this year it  launched a campaign to boost contraception globally and another to promote gender equality in India.

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