How yellow became the new millennial pink
From Beychella to the runways, the colour has emerged as one of 2018’s defining colours
Back in April, the Internet exploded into collective euphoria. Beyoncé became the first black woman to headline Coachella and asserted herself as the greatest living performer on the planet. Yes, there was a Destiny’s Child reunion and a heart-warming moment on stage with her sister Solange, but what caught our attention was the high-voltage production and the fact it was all yellow.
Everything from the Balmain hoodie on Bey to the costumes of her 200 or so backing singers, dancers and brass-band players was in bright, vibrant, see-it-from-a-mile-away yellow. What could be a better colour to resonate with a performance that addressed gender and racial inequalities, as well as the #MeToo movement? In more literal terms, it created a visual metaphor of the “Beyhive”, with Beyoncé at its centre as queen bee.
Now, you may have heard that “Gen Z yellow” is the new black — and by that I mean the new millennial pink. Trend forecasters coined the term last year and it’s been circulating the fashion periphery ever since.
But what is it and where did it come from?
Gen Z yellow “refers to a spectrum of bright yellow shades, ranging from banana to buttercup,” says Sara Maggioni, director of retail and buying at trend forecaster WGSN. She believes yellow is a “bright, attention-grabbing colour that makes the perfect Insta-bait” and that the innate positivity of it resonates with a generation growing up in tumultuous times. There’s also the fact it’s the colour of Snapchat, Gen Z’s favourite social media platform.
Calvin Klein 205W39NYC Autumn/Winter 2018
However, it should be noted that yellow is beloved by plenty of women who are certainly not Gen Z (those born from the mid-Nineties to mid-Noughties) — not least Beyoncé — yet for some reason the current appetite for the colour is being put down to Gen Z pin-up Kylie Jenner. Why? Well, perhaps it’s that, for most young people, yellow is an antidote to the over-saturation of millennial pink. Where that creamy Barbie-esque hue represented an interesting reinterpretation of gender neutrality and grown-up girlishness, it quickly became attached to anything from groceries to toothpaste and became a victim of its own success. There’s a risk, too, that as yellow becomes “Gen Z yellow”, it comes close to overkill. The truth is it somehow feels more perennial simply because of its wide range.
No one can deny that yellow is also viscerally mood-lifting. Yet the colour isn’t just about the happy factor: it’s also universal — and unisex — in its charm. Think about it. On one hand, it embodies the exotic taste of faraway sun and fragrant flavours such as turmeric, pineapple and mangoes. On the other, it’s commonplace, in road signs, neon lights and high-vis workwear. That’s the kind of versatility other colours can only dream of.
That’s why the fashion world has been rushing to get it in our wardrobes. It was all over the AW18 runways: in Prada’s banana-print shirts, Calvin Klein 205W39NYC’s rain macs and Off-White’s Helvetica logos. We also saw it on Jacquemus’s sun-kissed bombshells, Dior’s retro-yellow sunnies and Maison Margiela’s plastic-fantastic coats.
Why? Because yellow gets you noticed. Take, for instance, Rihanna’s show-stealing 16-foot-long ochre-yellow opera cape at 2016’s Met Ball, the dress that launched a million memes. Then there was Beyoncé’s ruffled mustard style in her Hold Up music video, accessorised with a baseball bat and swaggering strut. And who could forget Emma Stone’s canary-yellow swing dress in the 2016 Academy Award-winning La La Land, setting hearts aflutter as she pirouetted across the silver screen, a joyous riposte to the January blues. There are other honourable mentions, too, long before the recent inception of the trend. Remember Michelle Williams in saffron chiffon at the 2006 Oscars? That dress has its own Wikipedia page.
Rihanna at the “China: Through The Looking Glass” Costume Institute Benefit Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art
Linda Evangelista used to sleep facing a canary-feathered cocktail gown she modelled for John Galliano in 1995, just so she could wake up and see it in the morning. And cast your mind back to that New York summer’s evening in 2003, when Kate Moss emerged, post-pregnancy, in a nipped-in vintage lemon-yellow prom dress with little other than a smokey eye, freckled tan and tousled locks. It was so in demand that Mossy turned it into a blockbuster style in her first collection for Topshop.
For French designer Simon Porte Jacquemus, the colour is a pillar of his rising label. “When I was young, I was obsessed with yellow,” he explains. “My bedroom was yellow, with lots of suns everywhere.” “For me, yellow is about optimism,” agrees Ditte Reffstrup, creative director of Ganni. Last summer, the Danish label opened a yellow-themed pop-up in Copenhagen, complete with banana-print T-shirts, inflatable fruit and yellow-hued souvenirs. “I find sunshine yellow creeping into everything I design,” she says. “It represents a relaxed, laid-back attitude.”
Interestingly, yellow has started to outsell pink variations of the same style for Ganni – by up to 150 per cent, according to the brand. “It instantly has that escapist feel of summer,” says Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director of Net-a-Porter, which has also seen a 30 per cent sales increase in the colour since last year.
Traditionally, advice columns would warn against wearing yellow with black for fear of bumblebee comparisons. However, the sense of danger that the combination evokes has taken on new meaning in the age of #MeToo, a time in which designers are reframing the way they depict sex and sexuality. “In nature, black and yellow is a warning sign,” points out Karen Haller, a consultant who specialises in the psychology of colour. “We know not to touch bees, wasps or hornets as they sting, and those colours were then used for high voltage or danger signs.”
Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 2018/2019
At Louis Vuitton’s show at the Louvre in March, Nicolas Ghesquière spoke about listening to the women around him, many of whom are actresses and brand ambassadors. Cue plenty of yellow variations on wardrobe classics, and a black cashmere coat with a sunflower-hued shearling collar. Even the invite to the show was a bright-yellow-ridged leather pouch, and in the show there were similarly hued crocodile minaudières and laptop-sized envelope totes. At Off-White, too, where Virgil Abloh has riffed on yellow-and-black hazard signage for his sportswear-inspired collections, one of the best-selling products is an industrial-yellow nylon belt, inspired by the straps used to tie down construction materials in transit.
Calvin Klein Store on Madison Avenue, with installation by Sterling Ruby.
Across the pond in New York, Raf Simons has been painting the town yellow. In his role at Calvin Klein, the designer has been busy reimagining the codes of Americana. So when it came to asserting his vision of the iconoclastic brand and reinventing its design, advertising, branding and retail, Simons picked up on the yellow of school buses, firemen jackets, construction helmets and Manhattan taxis.
When it came to the complete renovation of the Madison Avenue flagship, which was previously a minimalist space designed by British architect John Pawson, Simons and his artist collaborator Sterling Ruby painted every wall, ceiling and unconventional shelf in Benjamin Moore’s sunny Delightful Yellow. Even the industrialist scaffolding in the space is the punchy shade, which stands in radiant contrast to the concrete façade. It’s the kind of brazen design that turns a room into a store into a destination.
Kate Moss in 2013
It’s not just fashion, either: yellow has started to appear frequently in the beauty arena, too. Fenty Beauty’s Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in yellow-gold is the third-best-selling product at Harvey Nichols. And that’s largely because the brand has done what so many mainstream beauty brands have neglected to do — create fun, fashion-forward cosmetics for women of all colours, particularly those with darker skin tones.
When Rihanna herself wore it, artfully shimmering around her brows and cheekbones as she arrived at the launch of Fenty Beauty in New York, she tapped into the zeitgeist, pairing it with a butterscotch Oscar de la Renta gown and yellow-diamond earrings.
Princess Diana visiting Alice Springs in 1983.
Does yellow carry the weight of socio-political progression? Perhaps not. But then again, yellow as a colour vibrates with radiance on women with darker skin, and at a time when diverse representation is an agent for change in the fashion and beauty industries, it could indeed signal an altogether brighter and more joyful future. There’s that — and the fact it won’t fail to make you smile.
From: ELLE UK