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It’s A Small (Pastel) World After All

Posted on August 24 2016

We live in a global world, and for the most part, and for most of us, that’s a very good thing. In the last 100 years, the world’s economies have grown bigger, technology has advanced further, and ideas have spread faster than anyone in 1916 would have believed possible.  Living, working and connecting in our modern world ensures we are more alike than we are different, but this makes individuality harder to achieve. We look around to see that American regional dialects are smoothing out, main streets are giving way to clusters of big box stores, and the ubiquity of Netflix means that we’re all watching the same shows and movies each month. Fashion used to be a fertile ground for self-expression, but when we’re all shopping at the same stores, how do we show our personality?

Clothing used to be so unique it hurt, when people were shearing their own sheep, weaving their own fabric, and sewing their own clothes. We’re all grateful for fast fashion and stylish mass retailers, but it takes a very subtle eye to see the difference between my ‘jeans and a T-shirt’ ensemble and yours. Fashion designer and dressmaker Patricia Davis writes about the absence of color in retail clothing stores, right down to the fixtures and fittings. Most high-end retail stores efface the store design to the point where everything not make of white lacquer is shiny chrome, so that the neutral clothes have a chance to stand out a little bit. Sure, design trends determine some uniformity, but when coffee shops across the globe look the same inside no matter what international street you find them on, it’s time to acknowledge that our choices are deliberately limited.

Designers and fashion free-thinkers like Patricia Davis aren’t as concerned about the shiny white counters and cabinets in your local high-end mall as they are with the limited palettes of the clothes available there. As Patricia says in her blog, posted on professional networking site LinkedIn on August 2nd, “Most brands stock their stores with neutrals, black and white and introduce only two or three additional colors within a single palette.” And according to Patricia, these additional colors are usually milquetoast shades like rosebud, mauve and pink, with an occasional foray into navy or green. I know how I feel when I don’t like what I’m wearing, and if I don’t look good in rosebud, mauve or pink, where does that leave me? Without doubt, colors affect our emotions, mood, disposition, confidence, motivation, and even cognition, so a lack of good choices in the closet can have a lasting impact.

The Pantone Color Institute has codified color for fabric, paint, hair color, nail polish, and even pixels, so that people everywhere can speak the universal language of color with a Pantone code. We’re seeing a lot of pink and light blue in stores this year, because Pantone told the world that the 2016 ‘Colors of the Year’ were Rose Quartz and Serenity. And thanks to the globalization and neutralization of color, Rose Quartz in Japan is the same shade as Rose Quartz in Brazil. Pastels don’t suit you? You prefer bright colors to pick up your mood and power through your day? Hopefully, you bought a lot of 2010’s Turquoise, or 2001’s Fuschia. No? Better luck next year. Don’t get your hopes up for fall either, unless you’re a big fan of “Warm Taupe”, and “Riverside” (kind of a blue/gray). Decked out in these sporty neutrals you’ll blend right in with the ubiquitous faux finishes of our new placeless world.

Embracing bright patterns and prints may not save mankind, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your fashion choices are your own.


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