Post-“United Colors of Benetton”: 2008, What Now?


Diversity is good…your culture (whoever you are) is as important as our culture (whoever we are).
Colors, no. 1

The three images above are racially marked ad campaigns released by Benetton under their motto “United Colors of Benetton,” between 1984 and 2001.

#1. Breastfeeding (September 1989)
• Benetton’s aim
-the image for equality between blacks and whites
-the most-acclaimed image in Benetton’s advertising history.
• Criticism
-given the legacy of colonialism and racism that informs this image, the photo privileges a range of dominant readings that suggest the ingrained racial stereotype of the black/slave/wet nurse or mammy

#2. Embraced in Blanket (September 1990)
• Benetton’s aim
-the campaign consists of highly symbolic posters to mark the concept of equality in diversity.
-awarded in Austria, France, Great Britain, Holland and the United States
• Criticism
-the White woman is a blonde beauty, the African American woman has curly hair and thick lips, and the Asian baby has slanted eyes
-Asia is represented as a child, and this reinforces the parent-child metaphor of a benevolent west-poor east relationship

#3. Angel/Devil (September 1991)
• Benetton’s aim
– features images from the real world which have some social and universal relevance, in order to break through the barrier of indifference which often surrounds these issues
• Criticism
-it depicted a white girl as an angel and an African American girl a devil
-many, especially African Americans, were furious to see the image, showing an innocent little African American girl as a devil

These days, fashion companies and designers, such as Levi’s and Tommy Hilfiger, openly declare that their motto is to support racial harmony, but do you really see that in real fashion world?

Mission: Medium
– Find two fashion images of the companies or designers which assert they are doing their part for racial harmony and world peace but still represent and reinforce the old racial stereotypes. With this image you should critically analyze the ways in which images are unfair representations, identify whom they might offend, and what stereotypical aspects and traits these images might regenerate.
– And, find two fashion images which you think best represent racial harmony and why is that so.


4 Responses to “Post-“United Colors of Benetton”: 2008, What Now?”

  1. ccrilveria Says:

    The real fashion world is dominated by the white man, plain and simple. Many companies advertise for who they believe are going to buy their product and almost all the time they believe that the whites would be the ones who would be able to buy it. Never mind that studies show African Women spend about 20 billion dollars on fashion apparel each year (according to Black Fashion Industry Insiders). Although it is great that these fashion companies promote racial unity, more often then not we see advertisements become biased towards certain races even though it is completely unintentional. Criticism on the breast feeding picture, the picture with the 2 women and the baby, and the angel devil picture has its points. I like to believe that the companies are trying to make an effort at unity but i can’t help but laugh at the outcomes of their ideas. More recently there has been a push to hire more black people and not only in the fashion world but in all careers. Examples would be in college and professional football. I once heard an announcer talk about who he feels will be the next head coach of a football team. The job was up for grabs between a African American and a Caucasian. The announcer said the the African American will most likely get the job because of the leagues policy to hire more African Americans and that it would help fill the leagues quota on hiring more black coaches! More recently it has been about making the quota for companies so that they seem to be nonracial.

  2. thekingofeurope Says:

    “and the Asian baby has slanted eyes”

    news flash: asians tend to have slanted eyes.

  3. astrangerwithcandy Says:

    you would say that.

  4. ccrilveria Says:

    Lol at the little african american kids pissed off look.

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