[Colors Magazine]*

I first came across Colors Magazine 17 years ago. At that time, I used to be fond of the United Colors of Benetton brand and would go to the stores at the start of each season to ask for catalogues. In Spring 2003, instead of getting just one catalogue, the store manager handed me two items: one of them was Colors Magazine.

I didn’t notice it much until I casually started checking it out with my friends. It wasn’t long before we realised that it contained disturbing photos of food with insects and pictures of naked men and women. It came as a surprise to the unsuspected teenagers of my age to stumble upon such disgusting and age-restricted material. Needless to say that my friends condemned the magazine and forced me to closed it at once. But my instincts told me not to throw it away…

The same situation continued for many seasons. I slowly started collecting Colors Magazines, but without noticing the content too much. Even though it was not as controversial as the one I first saw, the issues would, nevertheless, end up at the back end of my bookshelf cabinet, far away from prying eyes.

Almost two years passed and one day, after deciding to clean up my bookshelf, I came across my small collection of Colors magazines. Being free from my friend’s preoccupations, only then did I manage to appreciate the magazine’s content.

Colors was the brainchild of Oliviero Toscani, Benetton’s creative director at that time, and Tibor Kalman, who became the first editor-in-chief. The project belonged to Luciano Benetton’s Fabrica, the group’s communications research centre. The magazine idea was simply to talk “about the rest of the world”. Each issue was dedicated to a special theme and featured innovative articles and features around that theme. At the back of each issue, the yellow pages showcased a small directory of objects and other trivia scoured from around the world – from the most common to the most peculiar and bizarre. Colors magazine was published – and still is – quarterly and each issue was printed in English and another language, with choices among French, Spanish and Italian.

But it was for the content that I started loving the magazine. Unlike any magazine that I had read before, Colors was always approaching each thematical issue in an innovative way. It celebrated opinions and facts and insisted on diversity among people and places. Perhaps, no other magazine can claim to be more international than Colors.

From my small Colors collection, the issue that initially prompted the irrational reaction of my friends was issue 4, an issue about race, which made headlines for the doctored images of Queen Elizabeth resembling a black woman, Spike Lee resembling a white man and Pope John Paul II resembling an Asian person. But my most favourite issue was 13, the last issue published under Tibor Kalman’s creative direction. Instead of being full of articles, the issue was dedicated to pictures and contained only minimal text. Tibor Kalman’s editorial spoke about the power or pictures vs the power of words; probably the best editorial I have ever read in a magazine. It even prompted me to look at pictures like I have never done before.

And, thus, Colors magazine became one of my [obsessions]*.


[image © LambdaPhage]


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