When Caroline Neville, president of trade body Cosmetic Executive Woman, appeared on CNBC last year to champion the British beauty industry, she wore a pink jacket by Loro Piana. It was a calculated move. “I only wear pink clothes when I want to make a statement,” says Neville. “Wearing pink boosts me, gives me confidence and lifts my spirits. The colour really flatters me and makes my skin look like I have just had a glass of champagne.”
Fast forward to this spring, and pink will be everywhere as seen on the catwalks at Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Simone Rocha, Gucci, Richard Nicoll, Burberry et al. It has been seen in all shades, from pastels to shocking pink, while the Pantone Color Institute’s Radiant Orchid, a very pale lilac with a strong pink base, is its “colour of the year”.
Yet mere mention of the word “pink” conjures visions of hearts and flowers, romance and blushing youth. Not to mention the patron saint of pinkness, Barbie. Which raises the question: despite what is on the catwalks, can real women wear pink?
The jury is still out. “If you are in a creative industry, then what you wear projects your vision, so a good pink outfit can work wonders,” says Sasha Slater, deputy editor of Harper’s Bazaar. “If you want to be taken seriously in a more uniformed world such as financial services, then pink touches work as accessories, such as Anya Hindmarch’s bespoke Maude clutch in coral, or a pink Smythson diary.”
Designer Henry Holland of House of Holland insists that pink can send out a serious signal. “Pink is the colour of making what you want happen,” he says.
“It acts as visual Prozac,” says Richard Nicoll, who featured shades from pale to shocking pink in a houndstooth jacquard shift dress layered with silk slips (£450), and a delicate pink/grey midi camisole dress in silk cotton (£595).
Nicoll is positive about the colour’s potential for commercial success, and says this is why it has been embraced and backed by so many designers.
See, for example, Georgina Chapman, lead designer and co-founder of Marchesa, who has designed evening dresses for actresses including Kerry Washington and Sofía Vergara. Rihanna recently appeared in one of Chapman’s strapless, deep cerise silk gazar gowns. “With fuchsia you are making a real statement, which is great, but I also love an oyster pink that has a touch of grey in it,” says Chapman. The key is to “pair it with something else”, she adds. “You are not going to want to do a pink dress, a pink shoe and pink bag. A flash of fuchsia on black looks just great.”
Her three-year-old daughter would agree. “I always swore I would never be that mother who dresses her daughter in pink,” says Chapman, “but there is no point buying her anything else. There would be a struggle every morning.”
And therein lies the problem. Writer and broadcaster Chrissy Iley says, “It is very difficult to be taken seriously wearing pink because it is used to pacify little girls and men associate the colour with that idea … No woman wants to be pacified by a man. It is simply harder to be taken seriously wearing pink, so why make life hard?”
Despite her smattering of pink hair extensions, interior designer Tara Bernerd also shies away from the colour in her work and clothes.
“As someone who has a passion for industrial materials such as concrete, wood and steel, I would describe my style as more handsome than pretty in pink,” she says. “It rarely ever touches my designs and is very minimal in my wardrobe. I already have my fair share of pink before I dress, so there is no need for overkill.”
Whatever your personal feeling about the colour, however, it is important to know what shade to wear. “As a general rule, lighter skinned or fair people look best in pastel pinks, while dark skin tones can carry the more vibrant, shocking pinks,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.
“Salmon will enhance flagging moods early in the year,” adds Nicoll. “It is a pink that flatters everyone.”