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The color of chaos

An analysis of the colors we wear in times of crisis.
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Van Gogh used to say that "art is to console those who are broken by life", and undoubtedly - as we are seeing (and living) - in times of crisis art is a balm for the spectator and a means of transmutation for the artist. Critical moments such as war or social conflicts have brought some of the most significant artistic movements in history: Dadaism during the First World War, jazz during the Great Depression in the United States ... Today, in the midst of what seems like an endless pandemic, climate crisis and social movements seeking equity, art is more necessary than ever; and color, as a key element for the artist, communicates emotions, in the same way as the shades with which we choose to dress.

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One of the colors that emerged at a time of crisis is a shocking pink, it was promoted by Elsa Schiapparelli. In 1937, the Italian designer began to use this bright shade, as an escape from the global conflict that two years later would lead to a world war. The commitment to an electric and very striking tone changed preconceptions of color and began to normalize the use of vibrant colors, which we related more towards the end of the 20th century.

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Portrait of Elsa Schiaparelli, 1938. Photograph by John Phillips / Courtesy The LIFE Picture Collection.

According to the psychology of color, in times of crisis we look for brighter shades to lift our spirits and energy. Although little by little we are having the opportunity to show these vibrant colors on the streets, it seems that in 2020 the closest thing we have had to this trend is tie-dye. In Mexico alone, the search for tutorials on this technique last August increased 50 times, compared to the previous year. Other trends such as recycling and do-it-yourself options have promoted this manual technique inherited from the 60s, a time when psychedelics also served as an escape for a generation that only asked for love and peace.

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But what makes this crisis different from others is the isolation. It seems that at home we are left with very little to say, and that is why the biggest color trends in garments sold this year, according to WGSN , are neutral tones. From black and white, to a variety of grays, beige, khakis and browns, neutrals have been an easy wildcard for indoor living at home, allowing for versatility and timelessness at the same time.

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These colors are easy allies that remind you that when all else fails, it is best to go practical. Some marketers predict that this search for basic neutral garments will be a constant in the coming months of economic recovery , when looking for safer purchases and not so many impulsive expenses.

Another color of the season is the classic blue, a color that Picasso used during one of his most fertile artistic periods to give his characters coldness, tragedy and loneliness. However, when Pantone announced Classic Blue as the color of 2020, it symbolically proposed it as the calm, relief and optimism needed for the year ahead, even without knowing the dimension of the pandemic that was to come.

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Max Mara

From medium-sized retailers such as Banana Republic and American Eagle to designers such as Isabel Marant and Roksanda have opted for this color in their campaigns, however, with few cultural and social events. Until now, this tone has been the main one on the political scene this year: Donald Trump and Joe Biden, candidates for the US presidency, constantly make the blue suit their armor. Black, no matter how classic and formal, is left behind in times of crisis, giving rise to bright colors that remind us to celebrate life.

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