For Spring 2021, Illuminating Yellow and Schiaparelli Pink: Color Rejuvenation

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Coco Chanel has been quoted as saying, “Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.” Now, it is agreed upon that there is a certain timeless chic to black and white, but isn’t there fun in wearing that bouncy yellow dress on a sunny summer morning? (Coco Chanel may be eloquently scoffing.) Even Chanel’s haute couture spring 2021 presentation reflects this sentiment in glittering technicolor as a noir et blanc screen transitions into a palette of pink sparkling tweed, deep olive trim, and robin’s egg tulle.

As described by, “Feelings about color are often deeply personal and rooted in experience or culture, for example, while the color white is used in many Western countries to represent purity and innocence, it is seen as a symbol of mourning in many Eastern countries.” Though there certainly is cultural significance relative to color, certain associations can be made across borders and have been applied in art, marketing, and fashion. Red, for example, “is considered the warmest and most contradictory of the colors. In fact, this fiery hue has more opposing emotional associations than any other color: Red is linked to passion and love as well as power and anger.”

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Orange and yellow, also being warm tones, command visual attention and evoke strong responses of happiness, alertness, enthusiasm, and energy. Cool tones, blue, purple, and green, are often regarded as less visually stimulating, but still carry strong associations and cues. Blue and green are often considered to be conservative hues in their associations with stability, calmness, and safety; however, they are also associated with strong emotions such as sadness and envy. Purple, on the other hand, elicits powerful more abstract connections from wealth and royalty to mystery and imagination.

Color preferences in fashion choices often make a statement about how one would like to be perceived. states that someone who wears white may wish to be viewed as youthful and modern, while someone who wears black may want to be regarded as sleek, powerful, and sexy. Color preference may also change significantly as a buyer gets older, for example, “a person might prefer brighter, more attention-getting colors when they are younger, but find themselves drawn to more traditional colors as they grow older,” explains

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Pantone, leading color forecaster, releases trend reports annually and seasonally as they relate to fashion, beauty, and interior design. Traditionally, color palettes that Pantone releases are highly associated with the fashion season. Fall/winter’s palette is often composed of muted cool earth tones while spring/summer’s palette is linked with warm vibrant tones. These seasonal lines, however, have been blurred and form a “pantone” of color.

 According to Pantone Color Institute experts, “the color palette for spring/summer 2021 New York Fashion Week (NYFW) emphasizes our desire for a range of color that inspires ingenuity and inventiveness—colors whose versatility transcend the seasons and allow for more freedom of choice—colors that lend themselves to original color statements and whose flexibility easily adapts to our new and more fragmented lifestyle.”

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The pandemic, despite its associations with solitude, sickness, and fear, has been met and contrasted with vivid colors in the fashion industry. This offers an interesting perspective as it seems that people are dressing in bright colors during the pandemic in an aspirational nod to rejuvenation, hope, and an optimistic future. Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, speaks to this in the color palette curation by stating “colors for spring/summer 2021 combine a level of comfort and relaxation with sparks of energy that encourage and uplift our moods.” The color of the year, “Illuminating” yellow, offers a warm outlook on the future and is described as a “color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting” and is complemented by “Ultimate Gray,” which “quietly assures, and encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience” at a difficult period of time.

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There is historical precedence for this seemingly contradictory phenomenon, especially in the period of recession during the 1930s. Despite the despair of the Depression, colors were rich and represented how Americans could control some sense of joy in their everyday lives despite a bleak macro-environment. A noteworthy example is Elsa Schiaparelli’s creation of the iconic “Schiaparelli Pink” in 1937 at the precipice of WWII and the aftermath of the Great Depression. According to CR Fashion Book, “Using bright colors, especially pink, was a way for Schiaparelli to disconnect from the global conflict at hand and find a source of inspiration. The shock value of her designs challenged the preconceived ideas of color, especially pink, and set her apart as a designer.” Similarly, during the pandemic, we are seeing distinct color combinations from many well-established brands as well as newcomers. It will be exciting to see which designers achieve traction with consumers and what might be the resultant evolution of this color story.

Image courtesy of Meagan Morrison

Of course, artists are well versed in the emotional power that color can reflect and illicit. Much like Schiaparelli, Meagan Morrison of Travel Write Draw, traveling fashion illustrator, makes use of color to lift us out of our worries into a ray of optimism and light. She says, “I consider myself to be an eternal optimist and have always been drawn to bright, vibrant colors. I insisted my childhood bedroom walls be painted butter yellow so that no matter the weather, it would always feel like the sun is shining in my room. I feel like people are drawn to my work for that same reason. The instant burst of joy you feel when you look at the plethora of color and expressive brushstrokes has the power to heal.”

The power of color to heal, revive, and rejuvenate is never more important than in times such as now. We could all focus on gloom and doom, or pick ourselves up, put on our prettiest pink, or happiest yellow and move forward, heads held high.

—Tessa Swantek

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