Not so rosy outlook
Blush hues have slowly infiltrated every aspect of style, from beauty product packaging to restaurant decor. According to Nathalie Atkinson, the time has come to stop thinking pink
It is with a heavy, rose-coloured heartbreak emoji that we announce the death of Millennial Pink.
It will forever be remembered as the shade of the early social-media movement, completely unrealistic lifestyle photographs and overstyled restaurant interiors.
At its best, the blush pink was a sophisticated and unobtrusive neutral, as with the packaging of Jason Wu's namesake fragrance. At its worst, it tinted mermaid-like tresses to create a pre-emptively Instagram-filtered beauty look that was more maligned than selfies and uptalk combined. And in between, several factions claimed it as a harbinger of fourth-wave feminism and the reclamation of stereotypical feminine associations.
Like the motto " rosé all day" (written in pink neon script on an influencer's condo feature wall, natch), Millennial Pink came to define the generation born roughly between 1982 and 2004. The beige-pink powder puff was just shy of saccharine and only slightly less of a toothache confectionery than the titular Grand Budapest Hotel (it remains the colour of the eponymous sparkling-wine label of the other millennial patron saint, Sofia Coppola). The colour of candies, peonies and prettiness has adorned cameras, dishes, wristwatches, tufted sofas and S'well water bottles, as well as Kendall Jenner's walls and food-porn Ladurée macarons (just not at the same time, because Jenner apparently painted her walls pink to suppress her appetite).
Unlike the generation it served, Millennial Pink's original date of birth has been the subject of much debate. Some trace the first instance of the manufactured marketing trend to the hullaballoo around the hue in 1950, when the Southern Pacific Railroad marketed its Sunset Limited train by dubbing a colour "sunset pink." The promotional strategy inspired an all-pink issue of Harper's Bazaar that, in turn, was the basis of the "Think Pink" number in Funny Face.
Wherever its true origins, Millennial Pink truly flourished most in the last optimistic years before the present darkness and pessimism of the political climate took root. Around the time retro Gustavian interior design sparked joy, the distinctive shade of dusty rose became a unifying visual theme in consumer culture. The colour of stale cotton candy was used to brand everything from rose-gold smartphones to the lining of Mansur Gavriel handbags to Zayn Malik's hair. The ascent was swift. It seems like only yesterday it was making a cameo in Cecil Beaton's My Fair Lady and transforming Sketch London's pink on pink on pink Gallery lounge into Instagram catnip.
Initially, Millennial Pink was a savvy – and counterintuitive – graphic-design choice for fashion label Acne's branding and at its height could be found in bathroom cabinets thanks to beauty blog and skin-care brand Glossier's packaging identity as well as the wildly popular Prada Candy perfume. It populated kitchen pantries through Magnolia Bakery cupcake icing, homemade marshmallows and cast-iron cookware from Le Creuset, and sent thank-you notes on the stationery of Rifle Paper Co. Once it conquered the bestseller lists as the background of buzzy book covers (almost as many as had "Girl" in the title!) such as Dear Fang, #Girlboss, Too Fat Too Slutty Too Loud and Sweetbitter, it moved on to the book retailers themselves, lending appeal to writer Emma Straub's Brooklyn, N.Y., shop Books Are Magic.
Avant-garde Japanese label Comme des Garçons even deigned to make coats in a Millennial Pink floral tapestry worthy of Marie Antoinette – although according to her biographers Caroline Weber and Antonia Fraser, even the ill-fated French fashion queen stopped wearing pink when she turned 30. Yet, it rose to become Pantone's 2016 colour of the year, Rose Quartz. In hindsight, that endorsement was the blow from which even the photogenic Millennial Pink could not recover.
Millennial Pink reached its apotheosis earlier this year, not in the multimedia exhibition that bore its name (Millennial Pink at Michigan's Ann Arbor Art Center ran until early November and explored "gender identity, pop culture, sexuality, politics and shades of Pantone pink"), but in the Museum of Ice Cream, an elaborately art-directed experiential installation concept that exists for seemingly no other reason than instagram backdrop photography.
In a strange twist, Millennial Pink's final year opened with a promise of renewal – the Women's March, where a sea of pink was the wokest colour. Unfortunately, it closed not with the triumph of Laura Dern's pastel coif in Star Wars: The Last Jedi but with the memory of special Adidas Ultra Boost 4.0 pink sneaker, Flare magazine's new logotype and a limited-edition Canada Goose collaboration with Drake of pink-satin parka bomber jackets.
Its passing from inspired to insipid marks the ignominious end of an age, and a time when now being soft, neutral and muted is no longer an option. Although in the end, it was the banality of ubiquity that proved fatal. But Millennial Pink's rosy shade and its objects – always artfully arranged and photographed from above, will be how the generation remembers its youth.
Millennial Pink is predeceased by Avocado Green (1968) and Taupe (2002). It is survived by its siblings Unicorn Frappuccino, Santal 33, "savage" and athleisure.
In lieu of flowers, a donation of emoji poem tributes is requested.