BACK TO BLACK A sartorial journey across the colour wheel, from neons to monochromes
“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 Individuality had been replaced by an inane ubiquity.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