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In Living Color: Brights Are Saturating Women’s Fashion

When designer Christopher Bailey closed out his 17-year tenure at Burberry in February, he did it in color by transforming a London warehouse into a technicolor show of rainbow laser beams that mimicked the multi-colored capes, puffer jackets and twists on the brand’s heritage check throughout the collection. The show was both an ode to the LGBT community and a representation of youth culture’s desire to stand out.

“Color is millennial peacocking—it’s the fastest way to stand out on an endlessly-updating feed. And when there’s no predominant apparel trend—no must-have pant shape or dress length—color is a unifying force in fashion,” Edited wrote in a new report about fashion’s latest color obsession.

Intense color is a key ingredient in many influential trends, including maximalism, the ’80s reboot and fashion’s role in activism. All three movements rely on bold color to make a statement, forcing designers to reconsider their traditional light and pastel spring/summer color palettes.

Despite Pantone’s best efforts to pitch lilac as the color of the year, Edited reported that the pastel hue has barely affected retail for women’s wear. New arrivals of lilac for Spring/Summer ’18 were actually down 1.2% and the color’s performance in retail didn’t change from 2017.

Rather, yellow (or Gen Z yellow) is lifting women’s fashion. Edited said the color broke away from its seasonal pattern in the third quarter of 2017 and continues to climb. New arrivals for this spring are up 65 percent compared to last year and the sprightly hue has doubled its presence among retail’s best-selling products in women’s wear this season.

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Similarly, new deliveries of orange are up 48 percent, green is up 32 percent and pink maintains its momentum as a power color climbing a further 20 percent this season.

Color story

Color also serves as a simple and effective marketing tool. High impact colors like yellow and orange are making a strong statement across social media this spring. In the last three months, Edited said there has been a 74 percent increase in retailer newsletter mentions of “color” or “color crush” compared to the same time last year.

The color stories are enhanced with simple graphics like stripes and polka dots, rather than delicate spring florals, Edited noted.

Color energy

The paint box of color brings with it a jolt of energy after several seasons of sleepy and austere storytelling by brands like Lou & Grey, Anthropologie and Theory. Airy, Scandinavian-inspired imagery—think marble surfaces, iridescence and Mongolian fur—enjoyed a strong run as marketers played up the comforting appeal of “hygge” and slow living.

Yet in the wake of social and political movements like Me Too, Black Lives Matter, No Ban No Wall and the fight for gun control in the U.S., the docile aesthetic may seem a touch too meek and peaceful compared to how millennials and Gen Z actually perceive their worlds. Not to mention, blush knits and heather grey leggings lack the level of impact of say “gun control orange” during a march on Capitol Hill.

“Fast forward eight years and right now consumers are more about big, bold beliefs and changing long-held values. Those greyscale flat lays have fallen by the wayside, the marble has been replaced by Memphis design and bespoke terrazzo,” Edited wrote.

The ’80s

Both Memphis design and terrazzo smack of the ’80s. Last year, The Cut indicated that Memphis, the ’80s design movement defined by its wonky usage of geometry, color and patterns (think Beetlejuice meets Pee Wee’s Playhouse), was on the rebound serving as inspiration for hotel interiors and skate decks by Supreme.

Meanwhile, terrazzo, the composition notebook-like pattern that came into popularity during the Memphis movement, is cropping up on apparel, accessories as well as artwork in brands’ and retailers’ campaigns. Gen Z brands like Monki, Asos and Urban Outfitters have become perpetuate users of terrazzo, using it as details in their direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns and social media.

Fashion luminaries such as Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs embraced the ’80s their Fall ’18 collections, each playing into distinct themes of the decade. Provocateur Ford brought back ’80s sex appeal through slinky silhouettes, colorful animal prints and monochromatic looks in head-to-toe pink, lime green and orange. Meanwhile, Jacobs re-introduced brazen shoulders, voluminous pleated trousers and power coats in a kaleidoscope of ’80s hues and color blocking.

Consumers can expect to find more ’80s styling and approach to color. Fashion trend forecasting firm Fashion Snoops named the trend as one of the most commercially viable for the fall/winter season. “On a grand scale, if we were to identify this season with a particular decade, it is definitely the ’80s,” Fashion Snoops VP creative, womenswear Melissa Moylan said.