Making Peace With Pink, Spring Fashion’s Biggest Trend

ORDINARILY, WHEN designers rally around a color, there’s little to report beyond the news that cerulean blue or dove gray or what-have-you is the new black. When that color is pink, a hue with more baggage than the arrivals terminals at JFK airport, things get more complicated. For some women, pink is simply pretty, a flattering shade that brings color to the cheeks, but for others, pink is forever mired in saccharine depictions of stereotypical girliness. For still others, it’s a postmodern feminist statement, a color whose inescapable gender associations can be radicalized. Whatever your feelings about the shade, prepare to see a lot of it this spring: On this season’s runways, pink predominated.

As befits a hue with mille-feuille layers of meaning, designers’ interpretations varied considerably. At Michael Kors Collection, where the models strode out to Rufus Wainwright singing “Get Happy,” it had a brisk, All-American feel, exemplified by a cheery azalea trench coat. Things were equally upbeat at J. Crew, where a sheer, pale pink top was layered over a similarly hued gingham shirt. At Valentino, pink was lush and romantic, with intricate appliqués and historical references. At Bottega Veneta, a geranium-hued leather dress had a don’t mess-with-me mien. And at Marc Jacobs , a bubblegum-and-silver ruffled minidress was ready for a rave.

The thread that connected these various takes on the supposedly tender hue was a lack of pink’s traditional sweetness. That’s because in the 21st century, the color is most often employed ironically, said Dr. Valerie Steele , the director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, which is planning an exhibition on pink next year: “It plays with the idea of femininity and prettiness. It’s not straight-on pink.”

According to Mr. Kors, pink this season is about power, specifically, “the idea that women today want to feel feminine but also powerful, strong and independent.” In the wake of the recent women’s marches in Washington, D.C., New York and other cities where pink cat-eared “pussy hats” were a must-have accessory, this view of pink is gaining traction. Karla Welch, a stylist whose clients include Olivia Wilde , Amy Poehler and Lorde, calls it “the color of a feminine political awakening.”

That sentiment is on subtle display at the Wing , a women’s work space and social club in Manhattan that opened last year. Its founders, Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan, purposely chose a nude pink as one of the anchor colors for the space’s interior. “We wanted it to feel unapologetically feminine,” said Ms. Gelman. The Wing’s millennial membership has had no issue with the choice, but it’s been questioned by some older women observers.

Blushes With Greatness

  • FROTH AND FUNCTION (left) Pink feathers. Could anything be more frivolous? And yet when this marabou-trimmed camisole is tempered with the polish of a checked pencil skirt and precision-tailored blush coat, that frippery has a certain brainy grounding. It’s far more Julia Louis-Dreyfus than Goldie Hawn. Coat, 2,595, bally.com ; Top, $1,205 , and Skirt, $1,915, Prada, 212-334-8888; Wedges, $950, Bottega Veneta, 800-845-6790
  • SOFT BUT NOT SACCHARINE (center) You don’t have to go against type.This dreamy cloud of a dress proves you can indulge in romance without seeming like a Disney princess-wannabe. The secret? The subtle sci-fi twist imparted by designer Phoebe Philo. Dress, $2,800, Céline, 212-535-3703; Shoes, $725, manoloblahnik.com
  • ESSENTIAL AND EASY (right) For the woman who gets hives at the thought of wearing pink, the best approach is to keep the rosy piece as familiar as possible, like this Michael Kors Collection Pepto trench coat. Layered over black knits, it makes for a no-nonsense ensemble. Coat, $2,995, michaelkors.com; Top, $990, and Skirt, $590, The Row, 212-755-2017; Sandals, $595, Gabriela Hearst, 212-966-2484; Bag, $4,200, Céline, 212-535-3703.

“Women who came before us, they had to claw their way up,” Ms. Gelman said. “To be taken seriously they had to shed the symbols used to make women seem less capable. Younger women don’t have that reaction. They’re more interested in subverting and reclaiming those symbols.”

Strong as our conviction that pink is indisputably feminine may be, Dr. Steele said, the association didn’t take root until the 1950s. Exhibit A: The singing fashion editors in the 1957 Audrey Hepburn movie “Funny Face” who adopted “Think Pink” as their zeitgeist-defining manifesto. In the 18th century, added Dr. Steele, the color “was elite and aristocratic but not at all effeminate. It was perfectly fine for a man to wear a pink silk suit.”

Three hundred years later, men, too, are reclaiming pink. Pietro Quaglia , owner of Pietro Nolita, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan, opted for full-on pink décor, including napkins and T-shirts that promote the color with a NSFW slogan. When people ask why he chose such a feminine color, Mr. Quaglia said, his reply is a variation on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ’s rationale for appointing a gender-equal cabinet: “Because it’s 2017! Pink is cool.”

Of course, some women have been happily sporting pink for years. Laura Vinroot Poole , founder of boutique Capitol in Charlotte, N.C., is known for both stocking and wearing pink. In the fashion world, where one is almost legally obligated to wear all black, she and her buying team stand out for their pink attire. “Every time we walk in to an appointment in Milan or Paris, people say, ‘Oh, you Southern girls,’ ” she said. “Historically, I think women in the South have been more willing to wear pink. It’s the first thing that sells out.”

Somsack Sikhounmuong, the head of women’s design at J. Crew, a company whose archive includes exactly 226 shades of pink, said the hue is less daunting to wear than it might appear, especially in its paler iterations. “It’s an easy way to do color,” he said. “It’s softer than a red, for example.” Pink makes people smile, he added, a reaction he credits to the color’s ties to childhood: If you’re a woman, “then one of the first things you were put in was probably pink.”

But for many women, the color’s association with girlishness is a thorny issue. Amy Rogoff-Dunn, 38, executive director of brand strategy agency the Gild, doesn’t wear pink and resists putting her 7-month-old daughter in it. “I associate pink with dolls and fairy tales, Britney Spears and ‘Mean Girls,’ ” she said. Still, she’s not overly militant, knowing that when her child grows up and her character gels, she may want to wear pink—and that will be OK.

To Ms. Vinroot Poole, who you are is precisely what allows you to carry off the genteel subversion of wearing pink. “To wear pink, you have to be an interesting and smart person,” she said. “You have to have things to say. In pink, you can’t hide.”

By Nancy MacDonell

Credit for article taken from Market Watch

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