The fashion industry is not usually associated with social or political conscience… Benetton is an exception.
Benetton is known for its innovative advertising, where “issues not clothes” play the lead role. Their slogan, United Colors of Benetton, appears alongside multi-colored faces reflecting the rainbow of customers in 122 countries.
This year’s spring and summer catalog is a brilliant photo essay documenting real-life Palestinians and Israelis getting along together in friendship, and even love- historical enemies working, living and playing together. On the cover, ENEMIES, is super-imposed over a kissing couple. And all those pictured, over 180 adults and children, are wearing Benetton clothes (even if no one notices).
Israeli writer, Abraham Yehoshua, co-writing the introduction, expressed his disturbance at being “unable to distinguish the Arab from the Jew in most of these photographs.” He adds, “I find this so shocking because all my life I have been sure that it would be a simple matter for me to recognize a member of my own nation and race.”
Benetton marries Oliviero Toscani’s photographs to poignant vignettes detailing the yearnings of people who are divided by politics, but united by the daily, normal qualities of life. Sponsored by Newsweek, five million copies of the 84 page catalog were distributed worldwide.
Presenting a collection of smiles that Palestinians and Jews wear for each other is bound to break down more stereotypes than just those we have of the fashion industry… the grocer and his customer, the schoolchildren, the sweethearts, the co-workers, the band members, roommates, students, and neighbors…all getting along together.
Several pointed to their friends and said, “I wish there were more Jews like him,” or, “It would be great if all Arabs were like him.”…Well, here you go!