Benetton co-founder passes away

Carlo Benetton, the youngest of the Benetton siblings, founders of the eponymous apparel brand, has died at the age of 74, the company told the press on Tuesday. The father of four passed away at his home in Treviso, northern Italy, following an illness. 


Carlo Benetton (left) with his brothers and sister, Gilberto, Giuliana and Luciano - Benetton Group

Along with his brothers Luciano and Gilberto, and his sister Giuliana, Carlo Benetton founded the company that bears the family's name in Ponzano Veneto, a village in north-eastern Italy, in 1965, starting out with a focus on knitwear.

The idea was that of eldest brother Luciano and the brand made a name for itself with its jumpers, which were available in a wide range of colours and quickly gained popularity with the masses.

The success of the "United Colors of Benetton" only grew from there, with the brand becoming a global powerhouse between 1982 and 2000, propelled by campaigns featuring controversy-courting images captured by photographer Oliviero Toscani. 

Since around 2010, however, the brand, which has since diversified into other apparel categories, has been in constant decline. The business has been struggling so much that 83-year-old Luciano Benetton stepped back in as the company's chairman last autumn, having left the position in 2012. 

Benetton finished 2017 with a loss of 180 million euros, the largest in its history, but hopes to see the positive effects of a strategical turnaround in 2019. Last November, Luciano Benetton told Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica that witnessing the decline of the "United Colors of Benetton" was "intolerably painful". The brand's biggest mistake, according to its co-founder, was having practically "stopped manufacturing jumpers."

In his opinion, by becoming an all round ready-to-wear label, the company lost the individuality that underlay its brand DNA and has also struggled to reinvent itself faced with fast fashion competitors such as H&M, Zara and Uniqlo. 

Translated by Robin Driver

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