This story is part of Ensemble’s colour week, presented by Resene
In 2016, Pantone named its joint colour of the year ‘rose quartz’ (the other was a blue called ‘serenity’ but we’re not here to talk about that). The now iconic rosy hue came to be known as ‘millennial pink’, and from then on it was everywhere you looked. It’s a pretty pink but it’s not saccharine. It’s got depth, oomph and at the time of its proliferation, a hell of a lot of cool.
When millennial pink burst on the scene it represented newness, forward-thinking, creativity and gender fluidity, and came to define a whole generation.
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Before Pantone crowned it, Drake used the pink in the artwork for his single Hotline Bling in 2015. Wes Anderson saturated the set of his 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel with the salmony tone, the same year beauty brand Glossier launched with its simple pink, white and black packaging. And it was soon seen on the runways of luxury fashion houses including Celine, Balenciaga and Gucci, not to mention in the window of every fast-fashion retailer.
Because of its omnipresence in popular culture, millennial pink was always accessibly cool. But as time moves on, so has the colour. As we all grow a bit tired of all pink everything, we’re seeing the rose-tinted trend become more muted.
“I’ve definitely seen a dirtier and muddier pink emerge, whether it’s connected to millennials I have no clue, but I like it,” says interior designer/stylist (and millennial) Catherine Wilkinson. “It could be a response to brown and beige coming back in too.”
Generation Z has shied away from this soft hue altogether in favour of a much more vibrant “unapologetic” sunshine yellow, as 25-year-old fashion designer Ella Manhire calls it.
The Gen-Z Aucklander, who designs clothing and accessories for her colourful made-to-order fashion brand Magna World, says the colour shift is symbolic of the generational differences between millennials and Gen-Zers.
“If you think about the shift in social norms between the two generations, millennial pink could represent a softer presence, one that might show a sort of idyllic life,” she explains, “whereas Gen-Z yellow is very unapologetic and forward, with the younger generation being game changers in embracing yourself for who you are.”
One of London’s most Instagrammable destinations Sketch, which became Insta-famous for the pink interiors of its Gallery brasserie, has recently had a makeover, switching the palette from millennial pink to, you guessed it, sunshine yellow, at the hand of architect India Mahdavi and British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare. Could this mark the beginning of many golden branding makeovers, or is there another new hue on the horizon?
“Brown and beige are big at the moment as Gen-Zs and millennials relive the ‘90s years,” says Wilkinson. “Interiors often parallel fashion, where we are seeing the same thing happen. What’s fun to see is the futuristic adaptation of past trends.”
Which could be where Pantone’s Colour of the Year for 2022, ‘very peri,’ comes into play. The violet purple colour was created by Pantone to represent colours in the digital world manifesting into the physical world and vice versa, and for that reason, it does convey a rather futuristic vibe. But it’s a niche hue to work with, unlike pink and yellow. Right now we’re still using blue as a gateway to purple, and accenting rather than saturating, says Manhire.
“The cobalt shades [I’m seeing] seem to be used as accents that aim to intensify or make a look more striking and dramatic, so I’m wondering if we might be shifting into using these more purple sort of shades to do the same, while alluding to more femininity,” she explains.
“I have a friend who has used this purple as the main accent colour of her newly set up hair salon, and it does exactly what I would expect: adding a striking, eye-catching colour while exploring some femininity, without being childish.”
She muses, “Does the colour of the year set the trend, or does the trend set the colour of the year?”