A HISTORY OF PINK, THE COLOUR OF THE MOMENT

Pantone, exhibitions at the Fashion Institute Technology and Madrid’s Museo del Traje (or Suit Museum in English) and an array of books recently edited coincide when choosing the colour of the moment; pink.

Pink, as a dye, cannot be found in nature, which has represented a problem right from the start when it came to developing fabrics in this colour. The trouble in finding the correct dyes turned it into a social sign, reserved to noble classes, something that didn’t change much as of the discovery of the cochineal as a way of dying. The shipments from America raised so much the price of the product that pink in the wardrobe would only become a common thing by the end of the 18th Century when chemical dyes were being developed.

Understood as a derivative of red, which for a long time had been seen as a symbol of manliness, even though during the 19th Century and the start of the 20th men would shy away completely from this colour. It is then when pink starts to take new meanings, it is used in Hitler’s troops to identify homosexuals, but also African Americans used it as a symbol of identity as opposed to the dark tones that were imposed by the dominant society.

Mamie Eisenhower’s dress in the inauguration of her husband as 34th president of the United States in 1953 definitely turned pink into the colour of femininity. The Eisenhower family was forced to constantly move from house to house following the military career of the man who would later become president. Mamie Eisenhower managed for each one of their 28 houses to become more homely by dressing it in pink, something she even ended up doing in The White House.

Mimicked in millions of North American homes, a term was coined for the specific tone of pink, Mamie Pink and The White House became The Pink Palace. When in 2014 Hillary Clinton appeared in the cover of People Magazine dressed in pink it was a wink to Mamie Eisenhower, but this time Hillary opted to the presidency, not as a First Lady.

Babies, who way past the beginning of the 20th century would dress in clothes that weren’t dyed, started wearing blue and pink interchangeably as the technology for dyes was being developed, and it wasn’t until later when they began to distinguish them by genres. Pink’s associated to Mamie Eisenhower’s femininity in the most muted of tones and becomes the colour of girls, but it becomes popular in brighter tones.

Funny Face, a musical in which in a sense could be considered the precursor of the actual fashion shows, plays an important role. A photographer played by Fred Astaire discover a young model interpreted by Audrey Hepburn, who in real life would later get married in a pink Givenchy dress.

Fashion turns to pink as it expands the designs of houses from Saint Laurent to Balenciaga and even the cheapest of products in a time where everything was made out of plastic. In one decade pink would go from haute couture to single-use products and from there it would go to Punk, which would again change the meaning of a symbol known by all.

It worked in the same impactful way in hip hop, which flirted with pink as subversion until the appearance of Cam’ron  with a pink fur coat at Mercedes Fashion Week 2003. Adopting the preppy looks in the image of André 3000, Pharrell or Tyler The Creator, it continues to be a colour with its own meaning. 

In 2019 Pantone has chosen as the colour of the year a tone which can be placed between pink and red, the 16-1546 Living Coral. With the activity of one of them and the intimacy of the other one. Optimistic, sociable and full of life, Living Coral bets on animated interaction in a natural environment, representing what Pantone suggests is the perfect fusion for modern life.