Monday, February 8, 2016

Think Pink

Rose Quartz may be Pantone’s 2016 color of the year (along with pale Serenity blue), but pink has been steadily emerging as a color of influence for many seasons.

Pink is inherently warm and gentle, combining the passion of red with the purity of white. Research suggests that the color elicits a calming physiological response [1]. Accordingly, it has been employed in prisons and hospitals to create a soothing atmosphere.  [Note: Other research [2] suggests that the effect of pink on behavior in prisons may be an artifact of the “Hawthorne Effect”, whereby prisoners react to a newly painted cell---irrespective of color---only for a while until the newness wears off.]

Based in part on its mixed parentage, it has come to represent diversity.  Specifically, the color’s arc strongly correlates with key societal trends surrounding gender issues.  From as recently as the early 20th century, pink was a color ascribed to males. Social trends – and possibly Nazi politics – created a pendulum swing, and by the 1940’s, pale pink had come to be associated with the fairer sex – particularly for babies.  Innovative designers such as Elsa Schiaperelli helped bring the shade into fashion for women with the brand’s signature color,  “shocking pink”. In the 1950’s pink had clearly become associated with women. It was prescribed as distinctly feminine, reflecting the rigid society norms of the time toward gender roles.

The color continued to hold favor with women through the 1960’s into the early 1970’s, an era fuelled by women “libbers” who were taking charge behind the wheel of their pink-tinted Mary Kay Cadillacs. Surprisingly, pink found a way to bridge the gap between the housewife and the emancipated woman. A desire for brilliant, strong color dominated in the 1970’s and 1980’s and pink fell dormant. Women were concerned with looking serious and professional and the association with the softer side of femininity meant the color took a back seat during this period.  As the 1980’s came to an end, defined gender roles began to shift and neon pink and magenta were adopted for their high impact personalities.

Pink entered the fashion realm once again in the late 1990’s. In 1999, Gwyneth Paltrow sparked a trend on the red carpet, donning a pale bubblegum Ralph Lauren gown to the Academy Awards. She repositioned the color as cool, extricating it from its association with little girls.

Haute Couture has continued to follow suit. Recent examples include designer Raf Simons statement-making runway show in the Fall of 2012 for Italian luxury brand Jill Sander. For his final collection with Sander, Simons combined pink in all tints and tones. It was a wonderful celebration of the hue and further propelled the color into the public realm.

The recent popularity of Apple’s rosy iPhone 6s is another indicator of the hue’s burgeoning popularity. Straying from the electronic industry’s penchant for neutrals, Apple carefully veiled the introduction of its pink tone under the guise of “rose gold”.  But, anyone who has seen the gadget can attest to its blatant metallic pink appearance. Regardless of its title, the color has seen great success - among both women and men - garnering the longest wait lists of all the 6S hues.

Food and beverage trends have also not been immune to pink’s resurgence. Rosé sales have been on a steady incline. In the summer of 2014, there was a shortage of the pink wine in “the Hamptons,” New York’s trendy holiday region .  As a direct result, millennial social media icon Josh Ostrovsky, who goes by the handle @TheFatJewish, launched his own line of wine calling it “White Girl Rosé”. Despite its non-pc name, the company has done exceedingly well, launching a rosé craze that has crossed into fashion, including the creation of a pink clothing line emblazoned with quips about rosé by Wild Fox Couture.

Women have once again embraced the color across the board – and this time it includes the workforce.  As women have asserted their position in the workforce (and beyond), they have become confident in their identity, celebrating individuality and creative spirit. Instead of rejecting classically feminine colors, people are embracing them.

The hard and fast rules have lifted, and men, too have reclaimed a taste for this tint of red. Pink has come to symbolize a neutrality between the sexes. A societal shift is underway; softening boundaries that one could argue blur the lines of gender and outdated roles for males and females. Pink has become an extension of this movement. It is, in a sense, the perfect color to represent this time of change, with its gender-flipping history and chameleon-like character.

There appears to be no sign of the color fading, and, as such, it would be wise to take advice from the infamous Funny Face fashion editor, Maggie Prescot, and “think pink!”

Roseanna Roberts,
CAUS and color trend consultant

Roseanna Roberts has over 10 years’ experience in color development and trend analysis. She has worked in many of the world's creative epicenters, including London, Toronto and Melbourne. Since moving to New York in 2010, she has worked as the director of color trends at The Color Association of the United States. Roberts continues to work with CAUS, as well as providing customized expert insight to corporate brands as a color trend consultant. /

[1] Schauss, A.G.: Tranquilizing Effect of Color Reduces Aggressive Behavior and Potential Violence (1979). Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry 8,218-220,1979.
[2] Pellegrini, R., Schauss, A.G., and Miller, M. E. (1981): Room color and aggression in a criminal detention holding cell. A test of the “tranquilizing pink” hypothesis, Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry 10 (3), 174-181, 1981.