Jean-Charles de Castelbajac

MILAN — United Colors of Benetton has a new artistic director: fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, who will be in charge of both the men’s and women’s collections for the brand.

This is a new role and one of the first major steps for the label, following the return of Luciano Benetton as chairman of the group in January. Commenting the move, Benetton said de Castelbajac’s “experience, charisma and ability to forecast tomorrow’s social and fashion trends will constitute a great asset for our brand.”

De Castelbajac first launched his brand Ko & Co with his mother Jeanne-Blanche de Castelbajac in 1968 in Limoges. The designer inspired trends such as the “anti-fashion” movement and the alternative use of objects such as rags and sponges to decorate garments.

In 1974, he cofounded Iceberg, and in 1978, he launched the Jean-Charles de Castelbajac brand, which he left in 2016. Over the years, he has also collaborated with Max Mara, Ellesse, Courrèges, Rossignol and Le Coq Sportif. Blending punk and pop references, his style dovetails with Benetton’s use of strong colors and a whimsical and irreverent touch.

“An iconic brand, United Colors of Benetton envisioned the world of today: a pop, colorful, affordable and universal fashion, enhanced by Oliviero Toscani’s powerful images,” de Castelbajac said. “United Colors of Benetton and I have always had a similar take on fashion, characterized by the passion for knitwear and the love of pop and rainbow colors.”

The chairman of the group, one of the founders with his siblings Giuliana, Gilberto and the late Carlo, is behind Toscani’s own return to the brand. The two men famously collaborated for years on controversial ad campaigns in the Eighties and Nineties, and Toscani photographed a new communication campaign for the brand that bowed in December.

“Thanks to social networks, fashion today is visible to everyone, but it remains affordable only to a few. Together, United Colors of Benetton and I will seek to create tomorrow’s wardrobe, bringing beauty and style to everyday life, at prices that everyone can afford,” de Castelbajac said.

Luciano Benetton had retired in April 2012, passing the baton to his son Alessandro, who exited the company after two years. The senior Benetton decided to become newly involved in United Colors of Benetton after years of declining sales, with the goal of turning around the fashion group that made his name into a global brand.

In addition to a long career that spans from design to painting, advertising and street art, de Castelbajac and Luciano Benetton also share a passion for blending fashion with art. The French designer befriended and worked with artists such as Andy Warhol, Miquel Barceló, Keith Haring, Jean Michel Basquiat, M.I.A and Lady Gaga.

His creations have been displayed at New York’s Institute of Fashion and Technology, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and the Galliera Museum in Paris. In 2018, he was guest artistic director at the Paris Biennale.

The Italian entrepreneur has tirelessly traveled around the world with his collection called Imago Mundi, which contains works in a 3.9-inch-by-4.7-inch format by artists around the world and now totals around 25,000 pieces.

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