Colour is back, and here’s why

Colour is back, and here’s why

Ahhh, it has been a long and bland era, but finally.  We did it.  Millennial pink is truly done and dusted, and in its place is an array of much, much better options.

I’ve whinged about millennial pink before on this blog and to be honest, it’s not really the pink that’s the problem.  It’s that millennial pink brought with it a series of blah colour palettes, and to me it’s synonymous with “minimalism”.  But only that particular brand of minimalism that thinks black and white is the best possible palette, with some pops of grey, marble, rose gold and millennial pink to alleviate the sense you are living inside a newspaper.  Which, as colour palettes go, is inoffensive but WHY was it everywhere.  You couldn’t move for marble print and rose gold for a few years there. 

That obsession, I think, reflected a few interesting things.  First of all, trends are so strong thanks to the echo chamber of social media.  You see a post of a chic grey look. And another.  And another.  It starts to look great.  So you wear a similar look.  It gets lots of likes.  One of those people liking your post reaches the same spot in the cycle.  Next thing you know, your feed is full of duplicate looks and your wardrobe looks like you bought the entire thing from Decjuba.

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Secondly, let’s be honest, we think colour and mixing patterns is tricky.  Wearing a palette of neutrals, or decorating your house in a minimal palette, is easy.  It’s easier to look sophisticated in black trousers and a cream cashmere knit than, say, a Ken Done sweatshirt and a lime green accordion pleat skirt (the outfit I will be wearing as you read this).  Minimalist palettes allowed us all to buy a sense of style that was easy to deploy (and this is why this look will never, ever die).  That being said, we all know that we don’t all suit black, right?

And finally, my god have we ever been obsessed with the people of Europe.  Specifically, anyone we could lump under the label of “Scandi”.  Weirdly, we saw this through a desaturated lens – anyone who has ever found themselves in Marimekko will tell you, there’s plenty of colour in Scandi design.  But we all dressed, and decorated, like we were in a cedar cabin in the winter woods, where everything was “natural” and blended in with the silver tones of the cabin, and the landscape.

Again – all well and good.  In fact as I wrote that last bit about the cabin I was feeling a vibe, since it’s currently <10 degrees in Wellington and the cozy knits are still in the game.  But I’m done with it! Bring on the full spectrum of colour.  Bring on the bright pinks instead of the millennial (and I’m allowed to say that, since I squeak into millennialhood by just a few months).  

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We find ourselves well and truly out of the woods in 2019, after the rise of some great colour trends (mustard, pistachio, lilac, and now orchid and fuchsia as well as the trends for blue and white toile, terracotta, cobalt and others).  It feels like the rainbow has been turned back on, and the world is once again full of colour.  I find this fascinating, since I think fashion trends are a fun glimpse into the human psyche at a particular moment in time.  So why has the minimalist palette been on the out, and the colour palette expanded?

Wouldn’t you think we’d want the easy control of a minimalist palette at a time when everything seems like it’s going crazy?  When the planet seems to be on an unstoppable path to a state I will call “totally effed”, when Britain seems unable to find its own backside with both hands (but more than capable of using said hand to squeeze an unsuspecting lady’s thigh under the lunch table – allegedly), when the President of the Free World is an ex-property developer with no relevant experience and who seems to be able to find endless time during the day to tweet his every thought (when, exactly, is the work being done?  The other Presidents seemed busier).  When even in New Zealand we’re dealing with big issues – about housing affordability, the treatment of Maori traditional lands, the rise of income inequality and the huge number of kids we have in this country who are getting nothing like a good start in life.  All that to think about, and we’ve now decided it’s the time to start messing about with colour and pattern again?  What?

Well first of all, it’s because it’s boring.  I’ve seen the same exact interiors about 10,000 times.  If I go into another “industrial mid-century” café or restaurant I will, in fact, turn into a mid-century robot and destroy every metal stool I can find.  Similarly, the look is just entirely played out – we’re tired of it, and what once seemed chic now seems trite. 

I also assume we have just run out of (a) marble and (b) “rose gold”. 

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Interestingly, there’s also a theory that we move away from simplicity or minimalism, and towards luxury and maximalism, when the economy is doing well.  Now, it’s not doing badly per se, and lots of people in New Zealand feel richer because their house has gone up in value and their mortgage is super cheap.  So I can see that (although I remind you that with markets, things are always subject to change – and sometimes rapid change – so make good choices team).   

My theory is that as we talk more about sustainability and secondhand, our concept of what is wearable has to expand.  It’s certainly much easier to succeed in the op shop if you’re prepared to look across a broader spectrum of colour and pattern; it’s much easier to decorate your house with secondhand stuff if you don’t need it all to be identical and white.

And then, finally, I guess we all just want to feel a bit better.  We know that colour, and how you dress, has the capacity to affect your mood.  I think we know things aren’t exactly maximum perfection out in the world right now – I think fashion is trying to put some spring in our step so we can push through and have enough optimism to try and improve the situation.  Minimalism was about stripping away the clutter as we dealt with a lot of difficult information – it was a symptom of our shared psychological and emotional overwhelm that we needed to strip away so that we could feel calm and prepared to deal with whatever we faced in our various communities.  But is grey really the colour we want to live in?  Do we want to live in desaturated, insipid millennial pink trend forever?

No – we want to feel uplifted (and for some of you, minimalism and millennial pink will do just that – shine on, friend).  We want to feel individualistic again, we want to feel empowered and ourselves. I believe we’re experiencing the resurgence of personality, of people being freer to say “this is me”, and to bring their own sparkle and shine into the world.   Just remember to buy it all sustainably, because the best bit of minimalism is its focus on doing more with less.  Let’s hold onto that bit, while spicing up our lives and our spirits so we’re ready to get out there with solutions.

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Jacket is from Wilson Trollope (this season); pants are from Uniqlo about three years ago; top is Stine Goya from Wanda Harland; shoes are from Country Road (also in store now).