Forget sugar eggs with curlicues and Lindt bunnies; that’s so last Easter. This season, fashion has taken its colour cues from an entirely more sophisticated sweet. What can beat the inspiration to be found in untying a bow of pink silk ribbon and opening up a giant, gold-embossed box of rainbow meringue and fresh cream macarons?
“Pastry and fashion go together perfectly,” says David Holder, chairman of Ladurée, the most famous and prestigious name in macaron-making. “We have new flavours that appear at the start of the seasons, and, as Hermès has its scarves, we have our collectors’-edition couture boxes. We created a fig-and-date macaron in two colours – one black and one red – with Christian Louboutin, and we decorated our chocolate macarons with gold leaves, and created a box to match, for Marni.”
From grapefruit to rose, everyone has their favourite flavour, but for many the appeal is visual. Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, it’s difficult to think of a more immediately seductive food. Fundamentally, macarons are nice to look at. Which is why those electric pastel colours have translated so well into fashion: back in 2010, Nike issued a limited-edition range of Air Royalty sneakers in raspberry, lemon and Curaçao that sold at Colette in Paris, while in 2011 Kenzo produced a collection of purses that resembled gold, pink, green and purple macarons. This season, Estée Lauder debuted a nail polish range in similar shades, with the company’s creative make-up director Tom Pecheux paying homage to “the palette of pastels that fills the city of Paris in spring” – while many other designers embraced the confectionery aesthetic.
“Some of these sweet colours appeared as part of a couture-inspired trend,” says Natalie Kingham, international womenswear buyer for Matches. “There were pastel ruffles at Givenchy, intricate lemon-and-coral chiffon and lace at Erdem, and rose-pink sheer pencil skirts and coats with tape detail at Christopher Kane. Then there are feminine plays on minimalism, with powder-pink at Jil Sander and Céline.”
Elsewhere, Mulberry showed sherbet-orange-and-pistachio silk pleated blouses (£550) and evening dresses (£1,750), while Donna Karan’s cold-dye coloured fabrics, offset with Stephen Jones’ headpieces, were worked into “sunset-rose” and “water lily” dresses (£1,190). It’s easy to see the appeal: this is feel-good fashion with a shamelessly girlie bent. Message to Hedi Slimane et al: Cheer up! Have some cake!
Even designers who are synonymous with head-to-toe noir have been swapping their Pantone books for salted caramel, blackcurrant-violet and lemon. John Rocha’s spring collection was full of unexpected candy tones, with painterly, hazy organza trenchcoats (£595) over bustiers and crinolines. “I’ve always worked in black and white but colour felt right for this season,” says Rocha. “It’s fresh and modern. I was inspired partly by the light and colours of the south of France, but I also love macarons. Maybe it’s something about the way they look like fabric swatches when they’re displayed in rows but it’s also about the sugar-soft colour and the mix of textures – the satin crisp and the ruffle of the cream filling.” And his favourite? “I love lemon and vanilla.”
Of course, this small, jewel-coloured object of desire – not quite biscuit, not quite cake – has long had links to the world of high fashion. On trips to Paris, stylish itineraries include, alongside avenue Montaigne and rue Saint-Honoré, a trip to Ladurée on rue Royale, just by the Madeleine and across from Gucci. It is as iconic as the place Vendôme-shaped lid on a bottle of Chanel No 5 and, like a vertiginous Louboutin high heel and a flute of Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle, is delicate, recherché, and indulgent. No wonder last year Lanvin and Ladurée teamed up to create a limited-edition range of bubble-gum-flavoured macarons.
And like brands, macarons have a slavish following: when Ladurée opened in Manhattan queues stretched along Madison Avenue, while Pierre Hermé – the most directional name in French patisserie – has eight outlets in Tokyo alone, and enjoys the same luxury status as the most prestigious couture label. Hermé has taken the rarefied nature of macarons to new heights – releasing a new limited-edition flavour each month in 2013 as part of his Les Jardins collection.
Meanwhile, at Claridge’s in London – a favourite afternoon-tea destination for the fashion industry – macarons are as much a fixture of the hotel as the Lalique crystal in its Fumoir bar. “We make them in classic deco colours,” says executive chef Martyn Nail. “The pale mint-green is very popular. We’ve created bespoke versions for leading figures in the fashion world – including a gold macaron for Nicholas Oakwell.
“I think people somehow think that they have no calories because they’re so light.” Sadly, the opposite is true. Which is why they are a special-occasion treat. “A moment on the lips ... ” as they say. Thankfully, macaron-coloured fashions provide a sugar-free mood-enhancer that you can indulge in every day.