At this year’s Oscars, Zoë Kravitz charmed in a champagne-pink dress by Saint Laurent, while at the Met Gala, Glenn Close stunned in a neon magenta blouse and pants topped with an embroidered cape by Valentino. Harry Styles and Lizzo, meanwhile, wore hot pink pants paired with oversized shaggy coats at Coachella. Everywhere you look this spring, as we emerge from our pandemic doldrums, the world seems to be telling us one thing: Think pink.
It’s hard to know where this recent style obsession with pink came from, but one could cite Melrose Avenue in 2005. After all, that’s where and then the now-iconic neon pink wall first appeared, the brainchild of designer Paul Smith, who sought to set his men’s boutique tony apart from the gritty, graffiti-covered urban sprawl that surrounded it.
“I remember exclaiming: ‘We have to do the Eiffel Tower!’ “explained the creator recently in an email. “And by that, I meant something different and that stood out against the horizon.” The color was inspired, in part, by the cheerful hue that was a favorite of Mexican architect Luis Barragán and the idea that, contrasting against the blue skies of Los Angeles, it would be an instant traffic stop. . He was right, of course. And despite debuting five years before Instagram first appeared, the Paul Smith pink wall was a harbinger of things to come, attracting a tidal wave of budding influencers and takers. of selfies in search of the perfect photo.
In the years that followed, pink increased its hold on the zeitgeist, with one particular shade of pale pink becoming ubiquitous. It has become the favorite shade of brands ranging from Acne Studios to Glossier, or spaces like Alfred Coffee in West Hollywood or the Sketch restaurant in London. It has migrated to catwalks, apartment walls, gadgets (see: iPhone rose gold, launched in 2015) and website pages and marketing materials as far as the eye can see. The writer Véronique Hyland, in 2016, even affixed it to a generation, calling it “millennial pink”, a name that has stuck with it, for better or for worse. It’s an “ironic rose,” she wrote for The cup at the time. “Rose without the sweet prettiness. It’s a noncommittal non-color, whose semi-ugliness is proof of its sophistication. That same year, Pantone named a powdery salmon tone, Rose Quartz, as its color of the year.
“Millennial pink definitely defined an era,” says Anjela Freyja, creative director and design historian who often pontificates about colors and their general meanings to her 83,000 TikTok followers. “And I believe that era is over now.” Tiffany Howell, of interior design firm Night Palm, says interior decorating often follows fashion, and so, about five years ago, “everyone wanted everything pink.” It’s always a major request, and many clients come to see it in search of their “pink moment”.
Clare Coulson, color strategist at trend forecasting firm WGSN, says the hue represented a sense of openness and positivity that, it may be hard to remember, permeated the pre-Trump years when we were still in the blush (pun intended) of social media. “Millennial pink pushed the boundaries to become a gender-neutral color that felt empowering, youthful, and wearable,” she says. “Millennials loved it for its Instagram compatibility and openness to gender diversity.” Freyja agrees: “I suspect that for the first time in over a century pink was able to take on asexual qualities, and there was something very new and fresh about it.” It used to be that a man wearing pink could frown in some circles (although rapper Cam’ron certainly created a sensation and a trend when he rocked his Killa Pink look in 2002).
Howell notes its soulful effect and versatility. “It evokes a big emotional reaction in people and has quite a range,” she says. “It can be deeply romantic and also act as a neutral to soften spaces.”
The shadow has proliferated far and wide, which in recent years has led to burnout in some design circles. “While I still love certain shades of pink, I personally used it a lot as a designer and was sick of it,” Howell admits. But now, as we (fingers crossed!) leave the pandemic behind us, tastemakers are pondering what’s next for color.
The verdict is that the pink is far from dead, but it’s not the same powdery shade of a few years ago. The color, it seems, has bifurcated, moving toward two extremes (like the United States as a whole). On one side we find a garish neon pink and on the other a putty pastel shade, even more discreet than the millennial version.
“We are definitely seeing a resurgence of hot pink,” says Freyja. For proof, just look at Valentino’s Fall/Winter 2022 collection, which was rendered half black and half a shocking, face-slapping fluorescent pink, which the brand has dubbed Valentino Pink PP. It’s partying and begging for a post-pandemic party. “After spending two years cooped up in our homes, there seems to be a craving for color. We all crave color and joy,” says Freyja. “Bright colors are nice and provide energetic respite from our leggings and pants. “work from home” jogging.
Coulson says shades of pink on fall runways are up 138% year over year, pointing to the Valentino runway as proof. Streetwear website Highsnobiety recently suggested that this brighter new shade is a fiery response to the soothing serenity of millennial pink, dubbing it “Hot Pink Fury.”
Conversely, Howell says she’s favored softer, soothing shades in her design work lately. “I use more earthy, dreamy pink hues reminiscent of old Italian villas or faded buildings in Paris,” she says. “There’s something sexy and exotic about these shades. I think after being stuck at home for so long people yearn to incorporate some of these nostalgic places into their homes. There’s no denying that everyone looks stunning in a beautifully lit soft pink room, and who doesn’t want that? Examples of softer tones in the fashion world include the beaded pink Armani Privé dress that Elle Fanning just debuted at Cannes. Coulson notes that in her summer 2024 forecast work, she not only predicts bolder shades of pink, but softer shades as well (their charming names are Fondant Pink and Pink Diamond).
What else does Coulson see in his crystal ball? “Our obsession with pink will continue to grow,” she says. “We don’t see him going anywhere at the moment.”
This story first appeared in the June 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.