Last season, the debut collection of Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, freshly appointed as Artistic Director at United Colors of Benetton, actually left me a bit surprised. How can a brand that desperately needs to get back the trust of the youth propose a funny show, even a bit eccentric with the styles, instead of wearable and easy items that were previously the pure DNA of the brand from Treviso. Today, Mr. Castelbajac gave me the answer during the press conference before the show: “My mission was to awaken the brand, so the first season was the electroshock and this one will be the second step to establish the basis of a solid future,” explained the 70-year-old dynamic French creative who has a more clear vision of today's world than many young spoiled designers who aim for stardom but really don’t have a clue.
“This collection will be made with a lot of wearable pieces with a good price point in order to continue the success of last season’s collection. It was really surprising that even the 1.200 euro handmade coat with the small wool sheep applied (that we produced just for the show and window display) has been requested by customers and sold out; the same happened for more easy pieces like all the Snoopy and Mickey Mouse collaborations, the sheep t-shirt and all the new basics.” And it seems that this season new instant classics are already there.
The collection was the perfect balance of what the brand needs now and the show pieces that make it magic. The main inspiration was the idea of water, and everything is clearly connected to it (the location was the beautiful mid-30s architecture Piscina Cozzi in Milano). “When I went into the Benetton archives, I realized that there were a lot of links to travelling and the sailors; that's why I named this collection ‘Color Wave,’ thinking about the sea and everything related to it.” So, the colours exploded onto the designs in a creative way that reminded us of Mediterranean ports. The Popeye collaboration will already be a cash-maker item, as could be the rainbow turtleneck or denim pleated skirt and the striped tops.
The show ended with three Italian divers, Noemi Batki, Giovanni Tocci, and Gabriele Auber, all of whom jumped from the three springboards of the swimming pool. This collection really marks a next step of Benetton’s evolution, and, working in this direction, they could bring back the attractiveness that faded in the past years. The brand’s heritage is very strong, and this contemporary approach is a good path to follow, without being afraid of the fast fashion chains that do not seem to speak the same language.
Photo by Valerio Mezzanotti