Ursula Beretta

Once upon a time there was black, the favorite color of those who made fashion and followed it, which, like a uniform, traced marks and designs, establishing a boundary on one side and a certainty on the other. A sort of Linus blanket of elegance, which eschewed the useless and noisy shrieks of a certain milieu to pose as a unicum to which to refer.  And to homologate to. After all, Baldassarre Castiglione had been clear: in clothing, black is more pleasing than any other color. Period. A lesson that, almost five centuries later, Gabrielle Coco Chanel learned to perfection, making herself the interpreter of the need of the time – an elegance for all, the décontracté style, a certain desire for morose composure arising from the immediate postwar period, the need to wear something functional and not mortifying – and encapsulating it in the petite robe noire, the women’s dress par excellence.  Black, of course. Needless to mention how other couturiers had imitated her immediately in the manner of a beacon. First and foremost Christian Dior with his legendary New Look full of black models that could be worn at any time of day and at any age. After all, black is a happy color (Azedine Alaia dixit) but, net of the relentless and ever-growing attraction it has been able to exert, it has not remained the only one in fashion. Over time, its democratic and sensual coté has exploded, taken on different, often contradictory meanings, becoming synonymous with mystery as well as elegance, with wealth and its exact opposite (black were the clothes of the people that did not show dirt), with passion as well as chastity – Marylin Monroe versus high prelates, to be clear. And it left room for a multifaceted chromatic universe with an equally compelling narrative, which was able to accompany the evolution of fashion by reflecting it, precisely, in its chromatics. But fashion and its hues do not live in a vacuum: a mirror of the society that creates it, it is itself subject to a continuous and elusive becoming. A matter of nuances, indeed. And if every historical period has had its fetish hue and it is also true that the color that identifies today is a rainbow palette (net of symbolic motivations), there is another, further aspect that has taken hold in relation to the chromatic question, always present but in reality never so strong.  That is, the fact that every (big) fashion brand is increasingly connoted by a color. And not only that. Because the evolution immediately following this has been the creation of a custom color shade for each fashion house, a unicum capable of further characterizing its style in terms of identity and, above all, exclusivity, with good peace to the supposed mainstream drifts of fashion. Last, in order of time, was Sabato De Sarno. Gucci’s fresh creative director debuted on the September catwalk with his collection accompanied by his first color, that Rosso Ancora, a sort of dark red tending toward brown with flashes of burgundy that has quickly become the signature hue of the brand with the double G. Its soul recalls as much the elevator walls of London’s Savoy where Guccio Gucci used to work and which gave him the idea of creating a luggage brand, as it does the many archival pieces to which De Sarno has looked like an oracle. After all, the designer was a pupil for over fourteen years of another color revolutionary, namely Pier Paolo Piccioli, who to the maison’s legendary stylistic, oops, chromatic signature, namely Valentino red, has flanked the Pink PP, that bright pink that was really everywhere last season, long before Barbiecore. But that creative directors are a bit of color diviners is now an established fact. Daniel Lee has a real passion for the palette: if at Bottega Veneta he had imposed among the classicity of the hues commonly embraced by the maison the Bottega green, now as much an emblem of the brand as its woven bags, as soon as he arrived at Burberry the creative has redesigned the identity check of the British giant under the banner of cobalt blue. Present and past, of course. After all, not everyone knows that the famous Hermès orange was born out of a necessity, that is, to make up for the beige boxes profiled in marron that, until 1945, had defined its elegance but that, unavailable because of the war, were replaced by the only packaging available, an orange that no one wanted and that, from one day to the next, became the brand’s signature. And then there is Tiffany, which has made the robin’s egg color, the irresistible signature of its boxes, its symbol for as long as it can remember. There is Christian Louboutin who has written history with the red soles of his shoes. There is Giorgio Armani with the poetics of his greige that has accompanied him from the beginning and perfectly embodies his no-season philosophy….

And while this digression on colors might sound like a discourse aimed exclusively at insiders, the facts – and the daily newspaper – prove that this is not the case. Hues, just like other more or less macroscopic details, have the power to define a brand and possess a not inconsiderable coefficient of attraction that, over time, has gradually become more strategic and emotionally impactful. In addition to the not insignificant fact that colors make it possible to contribute effectively to getting brands noticed in the marketplace. And what better strategy than color to get recognized – at a glance? It is no coincidence that most purchases are determined, in the first instance, by the color of the object rather than its details. And it is evident how much brand awareness benefits from an identity amplified by referring to a single shade: it enhances its DNA, strikes a chord with the audience, and creates that idea of brand consistency that spans time and gives solidity…

What will be the direction – chromatic, of course! – of the future? Opinions are divided: more and more color exclusivity versus absolute color anarchy versus a preference for natural hues in line with the sustainable approach. Only one thing is certain, the freedom to be what one wants also, and above all, passes through the shade we give it. Which is exquisitely and totally our own.

Artwork by Joe Colosimo