Of the four destinations on the recent fashion-week circuit, only London experienced temperatures low enough to encourage the flaunting of new fall coats.
The event usually brings out all sorts of parading peacocks, so bright colours or prints never come as a surprise. But against the typical grey skies and drab cityscape, few pieces of fall outerwear stood out with as much freshness and flair as those in pretty shades of pink.
It was as if the ghost of Maggie Prescott, the fictional fashion editor from the musical film Funny Face, had commanded all those assembled to “think pink” when shopping for winter clothes. She would have marvelled at the women wearing their rosy-hued jackets insouciantly draped over their shoulders, and no doubt would have also enjoyed seeing the fuller silhouettes that call to mind mid-century Givenchy or Balenciaga.
Of course, in reality, women draw inspiration from a range of cultural influences, rarely heeding the advice of a sole omnipotent fashion figure who determines what’s in and what’s out. Yet it’s always somehow a satisfying sight when creative types all arrive at a similar idea. Even beyond the retail world, pink is the subject of a fashion exhibition currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, featuring a wide mix of antique and designer pieces from the late 18th century to the present.
Laurel Pantin, market editor for Lucky magazine, suggests that we have arrived at pink both in reaction to autumn’s fallback shades of black and grey and as an evolution of winter white.
“It’s an extreme switch but it feels really right to see pastels in the fall and winter,” she says from New York.
The trend has another possible source: Raf Simon’s Fall 2012 collection for Jil Sander, his last one for the label. His exploration of blush and rose played out as flawlessly formed double-faced coats that the models gripped shut.
Fast-forward a year and pink coats have blossomed into the season’s strongest statement pieces. From Mulberry’s pale-rose double-breasted overcoat to Phillip Lim’s elongated salmon-hued moto to Simone Rocha’s candy-coloured wafer-mesh topper, there’s no escaping the new wave of Prescott’s “think pink” message.
Through the colour-attuned eyes of Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, the proliferation of candy-floss hues is the result of a trifecta of timely influences.
First, there’s the Great Gatsby effect, which is still playing out following the film’s release earlier this year: “All those beautiful, diaphanous colours from the [1920s] invariably involved some shade of pink,” she says.
Second, no discussion of pastels should take place without a nod to the 1950s.
“They were popularized during that period,” says Eiseman. “This was when you started to see pastels in winter coats. But it lasted for a short time and went away.”
Her final explanation is rooted in present-day uncertainty.
“People seek comfort in baby-blanket colours,” she says, noting that with coats there’s the added feeling of protection. “Maybe that’s too intellectual a reason but I do think the psychological elements are very much a part of what colour is about.”
It’s also worth noting that pink can read Barbie girl just as easily as it can Céline woman, a contradiction that appealed to Smythe designers Christie Smythe and Andrea Lenczner when they created a lab-coat-style piece in a custom shade they call petal.
“The pink is sugary but it’s a utilitarian silhouette,” says Smythe, who adds that it has even more impact when worn with bright orange lipstick. In other words, context makes all the difference.
The duo’s collection also contains a textured mohair swing coat in a deep shade of fuchsia.
“It gives the appearance of a pieced fur that you might find in a vintage store,” says Lenczner. In this case, they’ve tempered the ladylike silhouette by toning down the colour.
If you’re concerned that shades such as peony, dusty rose and blush will fade from fashion relevancy by next season, don’t be. They popped up in the spring collections of Burberry, Rochas and Balenciaga, among several others. And if investing in such a nonneutral is a concern, Pantin points out that Club Monaco, Zara and H&M are carrying options that offer the colour hit without a serious financial commitment.
As the days get shorter, take comfort in Eiseman’s advice that pink “radiates on the skin – and who doesn’t want to look healthy and beautiful.”
Which is to say, layer it into your wardrobe in some form or another – and don’t overthink it.