Thursday, 26 March 2009

Off fruits at Borough

It wasn't till I was well into my twenties that I realised what a poor understanding of colour I had. My girlfriend at the time moaned disapprovingly as I went around shops grabbing as many things as I could in the same general colour expecting them to work well together. I remember returning from one shopping trip I made alone having discovered the colour green. Her face when I tried on my military green cords with a pea green shirt and black v neck sweater with jade flecks was a picture... After many wrong turns, she gradually managed to steer my stubborn mind towards the realisation that the key to matching colours successfully is actually to focus on tone and not colour at all. Unfortunately, I think this lack of ability to match colour skillfully is all too common in us blokes who's everyday clothes are often either monochromatic or centred around jeans with a splash of colour. It always amuses me that even men who wear a suit 5 days a week, still agonise for hours over the only colour co-ordination responsibility they have: that of the tie and shirt...and still they often get it so wrong!

In contrast, I though this female actor I snapped in Borough Market was a shining example of skillful tone matching. Her colourful ensemble stood out a mile from the drabness of the other shoppers while being tied in nicely together by all coming from the same off-colour tone. Last year we were told to expect an invasion of these off-colours but it never really kicked off to the degree we were promised. Perhaps that's because it's so hard to mix them with colours from other tonal groups and most people would need a completely new wardrobe to pull the look off. Since the start of this season we've been told repetitively that 'colour is in'. And sure enough, as soon as the good weather arrived a few weeks ago, Londoners were quick to don outfits as colourful as the blossom which appeared at the same time in Regent's Park. For the time being, according to the style cognoscenti, it seems any colour or tone is deemed to be long as it's matching.

As for what's next, if Henry Holland's AW09 show is anything to go by, it'll be chalky colours (see Karen Dacre's linked article for the Standard). I was highly dubious until someone tweeted this photo to me of next season's Preen Dresses: I think these milky tones will be just as difficult to co-ordinate with colours from people's existing wardrobes as the off-colours have been, so the chalky revolution's probably going to be just as subtle as that one was.

But some people will never learn. True to form, I've been enjoying wearing acid pink jeans with a clashing primary red hoody. When I put them together I smile to myself remembering that before I would have thought they went together. Now I allow myself the buzz from the very fact that they don't.

On the slate...


  1. You tawkin' about me? I said, Are you tawkin' about me?!

    For sooth, I am not actually sure if you're talking about me, because I don't remember that particular green incident, though I do remember the pea green shirt. But I am a proponent of thinking in terms of tonal families rather than matching. I think the idea is that things should "go" together, rather than "match," per se, and this allows for the possibility of creating visual interest with self-conscious clashing, whether it be in pattern or colour. So I would hasten to say that primary red can indeed go with hot pink under the right circumstances.

    It is funny how the universe works, ain't it? I ended up married to a dude who is literally colour blind - he can't see the difference between pale pink, pale green, and white, nor can he see the difference between certain browns and dark greens. Karma, man, you can't hide from it.

  2. Have spent the last month tracking down chalky stuff but haven't found much yet. Too much pastel still.

    Anyone else know where I can get some now?

  3. There is also much to be said for choosing tones that complement one's own colouring. The woman in Borough clearly knows what makes her skin and hair pop, and she wouldn't look nearly as lovely in an ensemble from the chalk family. I love the strong colours of last and this season, and have noticed that since the economic crash Stateside, many New Yorkers are now embracing it as a cheery pick-me-up, though it was, as you pointed out, slow to catch on initially.

  4. Nice outfit. Classic sex appeal...

  5. I just love the colour fusion going on, purple, fuchsia, yellow! very very nice!