It is one of the most common questions I am asked as a fashion director, and it used to be a pretty straightforward one to answer. What colour is in this season? Blue is what I might have said once, or maybe red. Another season it might have been yellow or green. There would have been two options maximum. Easy.
These days my response depends on how long you’ve got. For spring-summer 2017 there was a veritable paragraph’s worth of hues on the catwalk, the common theme being bright-bright-bright. There was red (as seen at Christian Dior and Celine), pink (Valentino and Balenciaga), green (Fendi and Emporio Armani), blue (Salvatore Ferragamo and Prada), sunshine yellow (Chloe and Erdem), and that was just the beginning.
Gucci delivered a mash-up of colours so manifold that it left the term kaleidoscopic in the shade. “Why have one colour when you can have 73?” seems to be the motto of its creative director, Alessandro Michele.
What’s with all the colour? It’s because that’s where fashion is at these days, on every darn tootin’ thing. Trouser shapes and skirt lengths are subject to debate. Eras are referenced and mixed up with the abandon of a confused A-level history student. It’s not that designers don’t know what to do any more, it’s that they know they can’t be dictators. The modern woman wants options. More than that, the modern woman no longer exists. She is no longer a homogenous entity who can be summed up as “woman” in the singular. Modern women, they are the ones who are shopping for clothes, and their predilections — like their postcode — may lie any which way.
All of which is good yet confusing news for us consumers. We are allowed — finally — to pick and choose colours, not to mention shapes and styles, that suit us. Many of us appear to be embracing that opportunity. Hot hues such as yellow and pink are selling out like never before, according to retail analytics company Edited, up by 68 per cent and 67 per cent respectively in the past three months compared with the same period last year.
As Lydia King, the women’s wear buying director at Selfridges, observes: “Colour is less trend-led now. It’s more about brand personality, and about the fact that women want clothes that are individual and easy to wear.”
But what if we aren’t sure what suits us? Isn’t it safest to stick to what we know? (Which, let’s be honest here, probably means black, navy, white and earth tones.) I hear you. However, part of the reason fashion has gone potty for bright colour is because it is such a great game changer, a one-stop way to change how somebody looks and feels. More than that, it does so without getting in the way of your life. What even the most highfalutin designers have clocked is that even the most highfalutin women want easy clothes that don’t dictate they sit a certain way or breathe a certain way. So they have endowed simple, often classic items with new-found specialness by way of unexpected colour, be it Dior’s scarlet biker jacket ($5200, in store only, dior.com) or Ferragamo’s sapphire trench dress ($2600, in store only, ferragamo.com). We can — and should — learn from that. (For more affordable alternatives try Lth Jkt’s red leather biker, $US495, lthjkt.com, and Finery’s blue linen Hartington wrap dress, $165, finerylondon.com.)
Caroline Issa, publisher of Tank magazine when she isn’t being papped for her superlative personal style, is one of the most dedicated followers of colour in the fashion business. “I love it. I actually feel strange wearing black now.” However, she has her rules, which is why hers is an approach worth noting by those of us who are less tonally skilled. “Keep your silhouettes simple and make colour the loudest thing about your outfit,” is her top tip. She is also a big fan of bright tailoring. “I love wearing head-to-toe purple or strong blue suits, playing with the combination of a strict cut and a fun colour.”
If that sounds like too much, then you could wear a popping jacket with neutral trousers, or vice versa. Issa’s advice: “Use accessories to add colour to an all-black outfit, or a white shirt with jeans. Think colourful shoes, a bag or jewellery.” It’s those small forays into rainbow chic that will help you to build confidence to attempt something bigger. I like Milli Millu’s Manhattan cross-body bag, which comes in yellow, red, cerise, forest and eight more colour combos ($378, millimillu.com). Or how about Katerina Makriyianni’s gorgeous pink and green gem chandelier earrings? ($545, avenue32.com).
What if you are feeling braver? First things first. Always scope out a new-to-you colour in the flesh — which means trying it on in a shop or being brutally honest about sending back an online purchase if it doesn’t look right. And make sure to try it on in daylight, accessorised with your real make-up, hairstyle, shoes and bag.
Naturally Issa isn’t having any of it when it comes to the notion of certain colours suiting certain people. “I tend to ignore that idea that there are particular colours that you shouldn’t wear, and I tell my friends to do the same,” she says. “Redheads always tell me that they can’t wear pinks or reds or more oranges, but I think if you play with colour confidently then anything goes.”
Australian designers have an inherent understanding of colour. The coming spring-summer season sees bold reds from Carla Zampatti, including an angled neckline jumpsuit (carlazampatti.com.au), greens from Ginger & Smart (gingerandsmart.com) and Dion Lee’s imminent autumn collection features cobalt blue and deep orange (dionlee.com).
On the high street, Cue (cue.cc) is spruiking cobalt and crimson this season, while US label J. Crew (jcrew.com) consistently nails bright colour like no one else.
At a higher price point, American label Tibi has become a fashion pack go-to. Standout pieces include an asymmetric red stretch faille top and a yellow crepe de chine top, which has almost sold out ($487 and $847, respectively, matchesfashion.com). British label Roksanda offers colour like few others, and its bell-sleeve Margot crepe dress — available in blue or peach — has already become something of a classic since it launched three years ago ($1700, matchesfashion.com). What a joy of a dress it is. And that’s the key to the whole matter, according to Issa. “I recently wore a red dress and was stopped on the street by teenage girls, a 70-something man and everyone in between, all excited by the colour.” I can’t think of a better reason to boldly go.