The rise of power pink

Photo: Getty Images

Putty, salmon, rose – whatever you want to call it, a softer shade of pink is infiltrating our homes and our wardrobes. Dubbed the new “power pink”, Isabelle O’Carroll looks at where it’s come from and how to wear it 

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By Isabelle O'Carroll on

Last week I had some Himalayan salt in my bag, rose quartz on my desk and some ASOS dungarees in the post – and I’ve been drinking rosé all summer. What do they all have in common? Pink. It’s been described as the new power colour – a millennials’ favourite that’s everywhere from Tumblr mood boards to your shopping bag.

As a child I loved pink – my mum often recounts that she let me go ‘full pink’ just to get it out of my system – my bedroom wallpaper, my suede Russell & Bromley shoes, there was only one colour it could be. I remember mornings as the sun would come streaming in through my pink (of course) curtains and my room would just glow. Visiting the Madonna Inn this summer – a Californian palace of kitsch which looks like the kind of house Barbie and Liberace would live in if they got married – my love for this colour was reawakened. Everything from the dressing gowns to the sugar you sprinkle in your morning coffee is a cheering shade of pink and I felt my inner five-year-old explode with delight. 

Last week Rihanna took to the stage at the VMAs in head to toe candy floss pink with dancers in matching outfits and cemented the colour as a serious, powerful style option. One of this autumn’s anticipated novels, The Lesser Bohemians, by Eimear McBride has a pink front cover, whilst Essie have just released their new season nail polishes including the Pepto-Bismol hue Go Go Geisha. My friend has just bought a sofa “the colour of a well spanked bottom”. But this colour craze has been bubbling for a while. Fashion labels Acne, Mansur Gavriel and beauty brand Glossier all have pink packaging – putty, salmon and baby respectively. Back in November, Pantone announced that one of their colours of 2016 was to be ‘Rose Quartz’ – a cool, subtle pink with a slight jolie-laide muddiness that recalls sticking plasters. 

But up until now, the colour pink has been pretty unpopular. In 2009 the Pinkstinks campaign was launched to highlight the pinkification of girls’ clothes and toys, and last year, responding to this wave of anti-pink sentiment, Amazon and Target both announced that they would stop labelling toys for boys or girls, echoing a wider trend for de-gendering early childhood. The feminisation of consumer goods for women has also come under scrutiny, everything from razors to biros and laptops can be subject to a pink makeover and an accompanying price hike. Even though ‘virile’ pink was considered a boy’s colour up until the 1950s, ever since it’s been associated with Barbie and princesses – to wear this colour would signify childishness or froth.

So where did this resurgence of the putty shade come from? WGSN’s Director of Colour & Womenswear, Jane Boddy, first spied pink as a colour to look out for way back in 2012, when Pheobe Philo used a brash fuchsia in Celine’s resort collection. Fast-forward to 2016 and the colour has evolved to the soft putty seen at Gucci’s cruise show this summer and on the autumn catwalks at Preen, Chanel and Jil Sander. Boddy explains: “Rose Quartz was one of Pantone’s colours of the year. Symbolising compassion, calmness and fluidity it highlights a focus on genderlessness and mindfulness, two hot topics of the moment.” The popularity of muted, dusty shades of pink can also be attributed to a climate where women feel empowered by acts that are often deemed by men to be frivolous or infantile, like selfies or ‘too much’ make-up, in this way pink can feel rebellious and delightfully self-serving. Pink is also becoming associated with androgyny which is another social trend as Jane explains, “the whole idea of genderless is being stretched further and further as fashion brands are putting men down the runway in blouses.” At the most recent mens fashion shows, pink was a big trend. 

And then of course, there is the obvious – it looks great. Understated, unexpected and a stylish accompaniment to navy, black and grey. 

For their autumn collection, J Crew have seriously invested in pink, so much so that they developed twenty shades for their autumn collection including wild flamingo, bubblegum and soft peony. You will also find a healthy dose of pink in COS, where they have pieces in the whole spectrum of millennial pink, from soft barely-there peaches to a retro pink, or Zara for ’90s slip dresses – wear now over a white T-shirt and in a month or so with a burgundy roll-neck. Uterqüe is the place to find a Gucci-inspired pair of putty-pink loafers to wear with boyfriend jeans and a slouchy blazer. 

But it’s not just clothes where pink prevails, it’s in our homes too. Style blogger Susie Lau can usually be found trend-spotting at catwalks around the world, but back home she recently painted her garden wall pink. “It was actually my partner Steve’s idea, he saw the Instagram account Plants on Pink, so we took the lid of an Acne box to Dulux and colour matched it. Pink is less shackled to the usual gender connotations and so it has a wider appeal, be it in interiors or fashion, especially when you pair it with other colours like grey, copper or black to add more "heft" to it.” If you’re not colour-matching your Acne, Farrow & Ball’s Cinder Rose has a similar touch of terracotta earthiness.

My ASOS dungarees arrive and I try them on, they’re more putty-pink than Rihanna candy, but either way I love them. There’s something so cheering about wearing pink, I’m immediately transported back to sunny mornings and my pink childhood curtains.  As Lau notes, there’s “a joyfulness to the colour – it makes me happy.” And whether you’re putting it in your wardrobe or on your walls, it seems like we’re all invested in the mood-boosting properties of pink for now. 

Click here for the power pink edit


Photos: REX and Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
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