Oliviero Toscani

Born: Milan, Italy, 1942



Oliviero Toscani was born in Milan in 1942. He moved to Zurich in 1961 where studied photography and graphics at the University of Fine Arts. He graduated four years later.

In 1982 he started working for United Colours of Benetton, a job he will keep for about 20 years, redefining completely the image of the brand and changing it into one of the most popular brands on today’s market.

He soon started working on fashion advertising campaigns for Esprit, Chanel, Fiorucci, Prenatal, Jesus, Inter Milan, Snai amongst many others and his worked was published in international editions of Magazines such as Elle, Vogue Magazine, GQ, Stern, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire and Libération.

In the 1990s his interest in filming grew bigger and he decided to direct his first film “Colors”. Three years later he directed “Fabrica”.

In 1999 he became Creative Director for Talk Miramax in New York for about a year.

Toscani was one of the founders of the Academy of Architecture of Mendrisio as well as teaching visual communication in various universities.

In June 2010 he launched with Salvatore Settis and the FAI a project called “New Italian Landscape” aimed at protecting Italy of degradation. He has also collaborated with the Ministry of Health, the Umberto Veronesi Foundation, and has recently created many awareness campaigns on subjects including anorexia with Isabelle Caro, road safety, and violence against women.

His work has been exhibited all around the world including in Sao Paulo, Milan and Venice and he has won many awards: The Grand Prize of Unesco, four Golden Lions, two Grand Prix Affichage, a winner Award for “Creative Hero” awarded by the Saatchi é Saatchi Clio Hero Show and finally he was awarded the Academic Honor in 2009.

What sets advertisements by creative photographers like Oliviero Toscani apart is their unique approach of conveying a message without explicitly showcasing the product. In these ads, the focus is on understanding and connecting with the audience, sometimes leaving them guessing about the actual product being sold. A prominent example of this approach is Toscani’s work for No.l.ita, an Italian apparel company.

According to Toscani, while promoting a product or service is essential, it is equally crucial for a company to demonstrate its social sensitivity and intelligence to society. He began incorporating social issues into his work, constantly experimenting with different angles. This approach proved successful, contributing to the significant growth of Luciano Benetton, for whom Toscani worked for eighteen years.

For Toscani, the core of any advertising campaign lies in its concept and communication. His belief is that art’s main purpose is to illustrate human conditions through a combination of rationality and emotions. He attributes this artistic talent to his father, Fedele Toscani, a renowned photojournalist for Corriere della Sera, Italy’s well-known daily newspaper. This hereditary connection to controversial photography has shaped Oliviero Toscani’s unique perspective and creative approach in the world of advertising.

Oliviero Toscani Biography

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Written by Marine Lazarus

Marine Lazarus, an Anglo-French photographer who moved to UK 3 years ago to study journalism at Brunel University in London. Marine is responsible for our Photographers Biographies section.

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