Living coral: a calm colour for tough times
Pantone has announced that the colour of the year for 2019 is “living coral”: a kind of muted terracotta, the sort of tempered earthen tone that might well have graced floors and walls in those Californian homes before they were devastated by November’s wildfires.
“It represents a feeling that’s out there in the zeitgeist,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. If so, perhaps the world is calmer and happier than we think; or perhaps in troubled times we crave the reassurance of a colour that is warm, natural and solid.
There is, behind the soothing glow, an edge to living coral. The name does, by association, conjure images of dead coral, killed by warming seas. “We do have to think about bleaching of coral,” says Eiseman. Yet, as she acknowledges, few will see the colour and worry: “There are many more positive reactions than negative reactions.”
Pantone is hardly going to tell the fashion industry to paint it black; besides, years when black is in are usually good years. In the wealthy Renaissance, when men wore purple hose and pink jerkins, the rich set themselves apart by donning black. This year’s colour tells us what a mess we are in. Stunned by Trump, crushed by the lack of progress on climate change, we dream of bronze horizons, desert hideaways and unspoiled reefs. On the catwalk, similar shades have been embraced at Poiret, Temperley London and Elisabetta Franchi.
Only in times of panic would we crave the eternal splendour that living coral distils. According to Pantone’s research, people see sunsets in it. Like Al Pacino gazing at a tacky tropical billboard as he dies in Carlito’s Way, we crave the reds and oranges of an island evening as the world chokes and burns. Perhaps this is the kind of perfected memory of Earth that will sustain the last space travellers as they search for a new home in remote regions of the galaxy.
I must be in a discounted minority of Pantone’s test subjects. The more I look at this supposedly zen colour, the sadder I feel. I think strident yellow or sickly green might be more honest and more alive.