Pink Power

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When a magazine came round to shoot the house last week, I sprung into visual merchandising mode, ensuring my multiple stacks of stuff had some semblance of colour and textural order.  There’s no way of minimising the amount of fashion paraphernalia that I have accumulated over the years.  Perhaps I’m clutching on to it all, with the knowledge that I might not be in this industry forever.  Further down the line, invitations, boxes and other gubbins will remind me of that fanciful time when I gallivanted about as a fashion blogger.

One particular colour  unsurprisingly dominates my piled-up packaging realm in the guest room and it’s pink.  Not the hot shades of Barbie dolls and Victoria’s Secret, but the duskier ones that flourish at Acne and Miu Miu and the softer hues that are bright but not burnishing your eyes, as seen at newer brands such as the inside of Shrimps’ lovely illustrated boxes, Mansur Gavriel‘s boxes and Simone Rocha’s pillowy shopping bags that she is using at her new-ish Mount Street store.  As the pink bleeds into “nude” territory (sorry to use such an odious word but none other seems to fit), it portrays something more grown up and sophisticated as seen in some of Prada’s shoeboxes and satin dust bags and Christopher Kane’s lovely soft suede coverlets for his new range of sunglasses.  These are the colours of the spectrum that apparently have calming effects, according to research published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry as scientists found that seeing pink slows people’s endocrine systems and tranquilises tense muscles.  Less tension perhaps equates to a higher likelihood of parting with your cash.  There you go.  Scientific reason for why all that dusky pink in Miu Miu created a giant hole in my bank account. 

And yet despite our positive associations with the colour pink, as this diagram from Veronika Koller’s academic study on the gender associations of pink shows…

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… it’s not statistically our favourite colour.  Koller’s research showed that only 7.7 per cent of informants rated it as their favourite colour, while 10.1 named it as their least favourite colour.  It’s also a storied shade that comes with more baggage than most.  Its back and forth gender associations (it only came to be known as a ‘feminine’ colour after the 1950s).  Its up-and-down love/hate relationship with feminism as a result of its misuse in female-directed advertising and stereotypical connotations.  Its historic associations with upper class decadence and flamboyance.  This piece on The Atlantic by Anna Broadway debunks the girly myth about pink quite comprehensively.

The proliferation of these gentle shades of pink in fashion, seems to correlate with quite standardised theories of colour psychology.  In its subdued form, pink is apparently non-threatening, inspirational, sincere and likely to attract a more sentimental and older market.  The hotter the pink, the more energetic and younger it skews.  To call brands like Miu Miu and Acne slow fashion would be inaccurate but their dusky pink packaging certainly commands you to consider each purchase with thought and care.  The boxes in particular with their mattified surfaces and close-fitting lids instantly feel like something ‘of quality’ will be nestled inside under the tissue paper.  Quality.  Longevity.  And yet, it also hints at an absence of convention.  That’s a winning combination for the aforementioned brands.

In the March 2015 issue of Wallpaper magazine, Jonny Johansson explained that the Acne murky pink came about after looking at a pink sandwich wrapper and calls it a “very positive colour” for both men and women.  It does so by having the amount of murkiness in it and so becomes an unlikely gender-neutral shade that appeals to Acne’s discerning audience.   

Miuccia of course is adept at all shades of pink.  I *think* she’s just about used them all in both Prada and Miu Miu collections over the years and for Miu Miu in particular, their powderpuff dusky pink anchors their branding from the interiors to the lookbooks to the shopping bags and every other aspect of packaging.  When combined with textures like deep pile velvet and cross-hatched heavyweight paper, you immediately made to feel like you’re buying something of significance. 

A crop of younger brands have also gone down the soft pink route – going lighter and brighter, whilst still maintaining its gentle qualities.  The more upbeat shades befit the youth of these designers.  Mansur Gavriel decked their entire presentation space last season – walls, carpet and furniture – in a shade of dulled pepto bismol pink that has transferred over to their packaging.  It’s a colour that compliments their now much-expanded collection of minimal-yet-interesting bags and shoes with a surprising high quality of make, considering the price. 

I’m told Shrimps is doing brisk trade on her website’s e-commerce and no wonder, when you get delightful personal touches like these illustrated garment boxes with its prawn pink interior.  In this instance, the pink does skew more girly but as it doesn’t quite reach the hot end of the pink scale, you can still sense that there’s something sardonic in what Weiland is doing.

Simone Rocha confronts bubble gum pink head on with her bold spongey shoppers.  I was so delighted when the shop assistant at her Mount Street store packed my equally pink skirt into this bag, that I think I squealed a bit too much over what is essentially, mere packaging.  But that’s the joy of being able to control your own retail, that you can make the decision to send customers, merry on their way with these marshmallow carriers.  Rocha has of course used this shade of pink in this bonded foam fabric in her own collection, to recontexualise this shade of pink.  Much of her work centres around reclaiming notions of girliness whether it’s through pink, florals or Princess-dress silhouettes.  There’s power to Rocha’s pink that isn’t brash or vulgar, but recalls one of my favourite reads, Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts.  Many of the clothes aren’t of course quiet in their design but walk into Rocha’s store and somehow the volume of the heavyweight brands on Mount Street quietens right down, enough so that you can appreciate these clothes that matter.  And if you do come away with that pillow of a bag, you’ve got yourself a protective cushion.  Against sharp elbows and hard-cornered shopping bags.  Against mediocrity.  One or the other. 

13 Replies to “Pink Power”

  1. I wish I had musings like this when I clean up the house.
    Really enjoyed reading this piece and appreciate your references to Koller’s study and Cain’s book which I’ve been meaning to read but well – it’s so much easier to keep replaying her ted talk and I found it so perfect that what more could she say?! Off to read The Atlantic piece now.

  2. I am one of those who may rate pink as least favourite, but I have to say – I see more and more designers who use their pink in “right way” and I happened to like it better. I guess girls refuse this color as they had to deal with it since childhood and guys are generally homofobic, so… 🙂

  3. the beauty startup Glossier that was begat from Emily Weiss’ site Into the Gloss is branded all in a soft pink dubbed #glossierpink on social media… Along with a light blue, pale pink was one of the colors of the year from Pantone.

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