Scroll through the slide show for a comprehensive color report from the fashion weeks of Spring 2011.
Jude Stewart is a PRINT contributing editor. She has written on design and culture for Slate, Fast Company, The Believer, I.D., Metropolis and GOOD, as well as a column on color for STEP Inside Design. She also tweets about color at @joodstew.
Hello, color fans. After taking the color-temperature of New Yorks Fashion Week over at Imprint, we decided to dip back into color as 2011 fashion debuts march across the globe: from London to Milan and finally Paris. Here are the hues of the moment.
SUPER-PALE WITH POP
First (and most deliciously, to my mind) is a preponderance of super-pale shades with a calculated pop of vivid color. I practically had my big wooden spoon out, better to gobble up the tasty delicacies of Jonathan Saunders collection in London. Saunders also offered a whiff of another refreshing color-combo: B&W matched with highlighter-bright pastels.
SKY BLUE AS A NEUTRAL
Sky blue also crept up as its own fetching neutral. Every color-watcher knows blue is fast superseding green as the eco-color, and the blue-as-neutral fashion trend plays into the idea of natures baseline. Not only does blue allude to ice (from a rapidly melting glacier?), it also signals sky, oxygen, and clear, cold, running water. Pale blues are particularly handsome paired with a warm khaki, as in the tunic ensemble below by Peter Pilotto, from London. Also in London, Matthew Williamson paired sky-blue with olive-green and canary yellow for a brighter, although still discreetly balanced, contrast. Sky-blue also peeked out from the frothy, very civilized excesses in John Gallianos Paris show.
In their Milan collection, Dsquared2 tried a squirt of minty-green for a similar injection of freshness.
MADLY COLORFUL SKINNY BELTS
A word on shapes as they relate to color: aint nothing quite like a finger-skinny belt in a super-hot color this season. Theyre almost too numerously snaky to count, but MaxMara in Milan was a particular fan, as was Burberry. Heres a slice of silvery blue, girdling an iconic Burberry khaki in London.
PATTERNS AS COLOR FIELDS
Busy patterns got a thorough airing - or, you might say, a full-bore gasping. Paul Smith paired some high-volume patterns with shiny fabrics in London, while in Milan Aquilano.Rimondi was digging a 1960s gingham-style, rather Holly Hobby-ish tripping on a half-lid. Keeping up the wily patchwork theme, but a bit more wearably was Erdem in London.
Also nice in the zanily-innovative-patterns category, is this marriage of crazy-quilt with electric-orange piping from Christopher Kanes collection in London.
Alexander McQueens Paris collection pushed things even further, mixing ornate carpet-style patterns with unusual shapes and folds.
Sometimes the most classic patterns are the best way to go bolder. In Milan, Versus played with clashing plaids, tiny gingham-style prints, and color-blocking outlined with a black Sharpie. Also in Milan, Jil Sanders fat, utterly clean B&W stripes were a clear, booming shout in an otherwise crowded theater. Bottega Veneta did gray diamonds on white, in a structured look reminiscent of crisp, wadded wrapping-paper. Gianfranco Ferre used wide black ribbons as an integral element in his ballgowns. Even though they were showing in Milan, Dolce & Gabbanas collection feasted en plein air in French picnic-style, with copious cabbage roses and red tablecloth checks. Pictured: Valentino, Paris.
Quite a few designers morphed a classic pattern to either gigantic or miniature size: Junya Watanabes Paris collection, to name just one, featured almost exclusively B&W boat stripes at various unlikely magnitudes. Balenciaga dialed up houndstooth to oversize in Paris, while Giambattista Valli pixelated checks. Moschinos Milan show stuck to tried-and-true color palettes: red, white and blue with a twist (pictured; Christmas on the Fourth of July is a fad among graphic designers, too) and bumblebee-yellow with B&W. The latter two felt thrillingly busy - without tipping over into disjointed, sad, babblingly busy.
Also nice: these classic stripes by Marni, running pleasantly amok in Milan.
BIG ON BLACK AND WHITE
Limiting yourself to a recognizable pattern type or color-palette liberates you from experimentation in other areas. Tons of designers leaned heavily on B&W this season, but by dint of mixing in unexpected textures, outfits that couldve looked like grainy war-footage instead offered loft, touchability and dimension. (Presumably also a monstrous dry-cleaning bill, for all those competing fabrics.) Those in the B&W-plus-texture camp included Givenchy and Chanel in Paris, Pringle in London (above) and Alexander McQueen in Paris.
THE MANY SPLENDORS OF PURPLE
Im sounding the clarion call right now: the future will be PURPLE. Only a few strategic splashes lit up runways for spring 2011, but personally Im seeing plum, fuchsia, and all the grape-y shades of ripeness in other fronts. And why not? Purple suits everybody: it can be effortlessly dialed more towards blue undertones for us palefaces, or more towards red, for yellow-based skintones. Its royal, its rebellious, and, even if youre wrapped in purple rags n ribbons, its definitely rich in hue, if nothing else.
MaxMara in Milan favored a plummier shade, as did Rochas in Paris. Nobody leaned too heavily on purple a discreet shot of royalty signals hope without hollering Recovery Accomplished at exactly the wrong time. Pictured is Christian Dior playing purple close to his vest as an accent color, in Paris.
Both showing in Milan, Gucci and Fendi demonstrated how strangely versatile purple can be. It goes great with tangerine orange, pistachio green, minty blue-green and canary yellow; even cherry-red and oxblood as Fendi offers here.
But Louis Vuittons Paris collection really pushed purples range to the maximum. Nearly every piece rocked some purple, in hues ranging from mulberry to grape through the (clearly porous) borders between purple, orange and pink. HOT.
THE RISE OF INTERNATIONAL KLEIN BLUE
Some color trends suffer accelerated burnout. My (arguable) case-in-point is the new penchant for International Yves Klein Blue, known in its unpatented state as electric or midnight blue. Its a shot of adrenaline where fatigue sets in almost immediately afterwards. Most consumers dont have the bucks to buy clothes with so little staying power. Also, frankly, arent we all already exhausted and beat-up-feeling? Why, then, would I gravitate towards anything in Giorgio Armanis entire Milan collection, where nearly every outfit paired electric blue with black, a dark statement akin to bruises. Also on the fan-list for electric blue: Jil Sander and Fendi in Milan, Haider Ackermann and Yves Saint Laurent in Paris (pictured).
WHAT COLORS COME NEXT?
Other colors stand out precisely because you wonder why they havent gotten more exposure lately. Your eye simply craves them from a recent lack. If purple pushes onto the comeback, it should bring with it dark greens like this kelly-green ensemble by Akris in Paris.
Also nice in its various subtler shades is flame-pink, rendered softer in berry shades here by Costume National in Paris.
Also in Paris, Isabel Marant dialed her flame-pink more towards red, desaturated to take away its brick-like associations.
Its fascinating to follow how color progresses along a daisy-chain in fashion. If your closet has been full of grays with pale yellow, as shoppers from last season can attest, the march of super-pastels, purples and pistachio, pale blue and tangerine, plus black-and-white graphics will propel your current wardrobe, each in its own particular direction. The colors that have exhausted your eye will vanish, mercifully timed to the durability of the average duds life-cycle. Make way for spring! Its colors are already trooping in.