A Mus­ing

BACK TO BLACK A sar­to­rial jour­ney across the colour wheel, from neons to monochromes

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“Noth­ing clashes, any­thing goes.” That was my sar­to­rial motto not too long ago (and the ev­i­dence lives on, no thanks to Face­book). For a trip to the flea mar­ket in 2011, there’s a 28-year-old me in a vin­tage flo­ral dress, arms stacked with colour­ful bracelets and ban­gles. For a day out in Hokkaido in 2012, a trop­i­cal print coat, coral shorts, wa­ter­melon sneak­ers and a pineap­ple bag—all worn at the same time, nat­u­rally. I lived by DianaVree­land’s procla­ma­tion :“Too much good taste can be bor­ing.”

Open my closet now, how­ever, and you’d be met with a sea of black, grey and, for a pop of colour, navy. My daily uni­form is ei­ther a t-shirt and jeans, or a dress in the above colour pal­ette. My love for trop­i­cal prints lives on in the form of the oc­ca­sional Hawai­ian shirt, but it’s safe to say my wardrobe has gone through a 180-de­gree change. Nat­u­rally, when I run into peo­ple I haven’t met in years, the first ques­tion they ask is, “What hap­pened to all your prints and colours?” My an­swer is al­ways, “I reached sat­u­ra­tion point.”

My sat­u­ra­tion point co­in­cided with what Suzy Menkes termed in a zeit­geist-defin­ing 2013 ar­ti­cle for The NewYork

Times, “The Cir­cus of Fash­ion”.“To­day, the peo­ple out­side fash­ion shows are more like pea­cocks than crows. It’s dizzy­ing enough to make even the most sea­soned critic call a time­out.” Menkes had hit the nail on the head. For years I had rel­ished the idea of “more is more”, choos­ing to ex­press my in­di­vid­u­al­ity through clash­ing prints and un­ex­pected out­fit com­bi­na­tions. With the on­slaught of “pea­cock­ing”, how­ever, bright colours, larger-than-life prints and OTT ac­ces­sories had be­come the norm, not the anom­aly; broad­casted through a non-stop top avalanche of street style im­ages. In­di­vid­u­al­ity had been re­placed by an inane ubiq­uity.

Sud­denly, the idea of blend­ing in, hav­ing a uni­form, and not need­ing to make an ef­fort, seemed in­finitely ap­peal­ing. Is it a co­in­ci­dence, then, that the term “norm­core” en­tered the fash­ion vo­cab­u­lary in a big way in 2014?

For me, at least, the ar­rival of the move­ment couldn’t have come at a bet­ter time. Dress­ing like Steve Jobs, Mark Zucker­berg and Jerry Se­in­feld, in non-de­script t-shirts, jeans and train­ers? Sign me up! Ever the in­dus­try bell­wether, Phoebe Philo had been mak­ing a case for dress­ing in this man­ner since her first col­lec­tion for Cé­line in 2009. Speak­ing to WWD, she said,“For this first col­lec­tion I wanted to cre­ate a wardrobe, and not get too much into the trends. I wanted to sort things out.” And sort it out she did, with her mas­cu­line-meets-fem­i­nine take on clas­sics herald­ing the rise of a min­i­mal­ist move­ment in fash­ion. Her own per­sonal style was just the sort of palate cleanser I (and many oth­ers) was look­ing for: A shirt or turtle­neck, trousers, paired with Stan Smiths. Cool, chic and fuss-free—fash­ion’s equiv­a­lent of a blank slate.

And, if any­one needs more proof of the power of black, k, just look at the 2018 Golden Globes.As the world watched d on, ac­tresses de­scended upon the red car­pet clad in all man­ners of cuts, sil­hou­ettes and fab­rics, in one colour: Black.The co­or­di­nated protest was in re­sponse to a call by the Time’s Up move­ment, whose founders in­clude some of Hol­ly­wood’s big­gest fe­male names, to rally against sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the work­place. It was a strik­ing show of sol­i­dar­ity, with an im­pact seen and heard around the globe… And they didn’t need any colours or prints to achieve it. ■

The black­out at the 2018 Golden Globes

Alexa Chung

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