An Interview with You Nguyen, Benetton Creative Director

You Nguyen being provocative as he steps under the sculpture and holds the sign saying not to.

NEW YORK, Sep 5, 2012/ — Walking in the Benetton pop up shop, the first thing that greets you is “The Position of the Anvil”, a life-size depiction of a couple in a very sensual position. A part of the “Lana Sutra” series which is based from the Kama Sutra, “The Position of the Anvil” is one of the several sculptures made of yarn.

Whether it was prescience or just coincidence, the “Benetton: The Art of the Knit” campaign touched on our current preoccupation with the bestselling erotica novels, “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

With the “Lana Sutra” sculptures at the heart of the campaign, Benetton once again is at its provocative best!

Catching up You Nguyen, Creative Director of the brand at the Benetton Pop-up store at 135 Crosby Street here in New York gave us a glimpse on the creative genius who concocted this thought provoking collection, display and campaign.

“You can actually blend commerce and art in one venue,” You Nguyen told us as he showed us the sculptures and also the art works on the wall.

“Art does not have to be in one end, and commerce on the other end,” Nguyen added, that philosophy being seen verily in the store as merchandise segued flawlessly with the art works.

Because truly, the wall space which actually has shelves displaying the merchandise also share the space with “knitted” works of art which are all parts of the “Benetton: The Art of the Knit” campaign.

Expanding on his statement about blending art and commerce, Nguyen continued. “I’m from design, but I don’t believe that a product, no matter how good it is can exist in a vacuum. I think it gains value when it sits on a context, and for Benetton, the context tends to be provocative.”

To make his point, Nguyen brought us to a wall display of a toilet seat cover that has been covered with yarn.

“We have seen toilet seat covers. When someone shows one to us, as it is, we think, ‘Oh, how tacky.’ Yet, put in a context as a piece of art with all the yarn coverings, we say, ‘Oooh… aahh’.”

Tackling his earlier statement of Benetton’s context tending to be provocative, Nguyen explained. “I don’t set out designing something thinking that it is going to be provocative. Design id driven on a trend perspective, what I feel in my heart and my head; and definitely using Benetton DNA.”

“Provocation comes after the design, when it is already a finished product. That’s when I try to figure out how I can present it in a thought provoking manner.”

And speaking of thought provoking manner, the “Lana Sutra” with couples in “flagrante delicto” will be a hard act to follow even with Benetton’s penchant of pushing the envelope all the time.

When asked how the Lana Sutra came to be, Nguyen answered, “We were looking for a common thread that unites all mankind. The Hindu word ‘sutro’ (plural term is sutra) means exactly that. After that, it was an easy step to arrive at Kama Sutra.”

Created by Cuban-born FABRICA artist Erik Ravelo, the LANA SUTRA sculptures are based on the Kama Sutra. Life-size figurative “couples” in poses from the Kama Sutra are wrapped in brightly-colored woolen yarns, and joined in positions expressing sensual pleasure and love.

The sculptures engage the senses through sight and touch, communicating the warmth of wool, a human embrace, love, emotion, pleasure (kama), and a common thread which unites mankind (sutro).

Photos by Mari Davis