If there’s one trend that’s guaranteed to stop traffic this summer, it’s neon. The colour of high visibility vests, highlighter pens and lurid 1980s jackets is back with a vengeance, but this time round the look isn’t so glaringly obvious. “It’s about nuance,” says designer Peter Som, whose spring collection, dubbed “Petal to the Metal”, features large floral prints with small touches of neon yellow peppered into the patterns. He says: “There are different ways to embrace the trend. You can take one bright piece, whether it’s a top or a dress or a shoe, and let all the other pieces be neutrals. It’s about keeping the shape simple and classic.”
Stylist Mary Alice Stephenson, a regular on the Today Show in the US, agrees. “Like everything else, it’s all about moderation,” she says. “Mixed with neutral colours, like navy blue and khaki, the neon pinks and oranges look phenomenal.”
“Probably the best way to do it is to pick a single piece,” says Holli Rogers, fashion director for Net-a-Porter. “That way you feel like you have the trend going but also that it works with the environment of your workplace.”
Consider, for example, Jason Wu’s dark pieces with fluorescent piping or Lanvin’s classic tweed pencil skirt and tailored T-shirt in a weave of black and hot grasshopper green. Then there are Oscar de la Renta’s extra-bright blouses that can be toned down under a darker jacket. Easy pieces include Michael Kors’s hot pink short-sleeved cashmere sweater and J Crew’s affordable office-appropriate bright separates, such as a hot pink tweed skirt (on sale at £85.52) and a hot yellow thin cashmere cardigan (£152.25), that lend themselves to pairing with a solid, neutral-coloured top. Workwear specialist Theory also has several fluorescent yellow pieces including tanks, button downs, and a blazer.
For the less adventurous, however, Helen David, Harrods’ head of womenswear, thinks that “accessories are key to interpreting this trend in a more wearable way. Neon brights combined with neutrals look very appropriate for the office.” Try Kate Spade’s neon belt (£80) or so-called “gumdrop” fluorescent pink oversized stud earrings (£24.53).
Meanwhile, Manolo Blahnik has revisited his classic BB pumps in glossy patent neon shades of lime green, hot pink and highlighter yellow in two heel heights: a low mid-heel and a taller, slimmer stiletto (both £440). “Every few years, when I’m designing my summer collection, somehow neon comes to mind,” Blahnik says. “It’s like wearing a traffic light on your feet.” Apparently, women like the idea: neon shoe styles like Christian Louboutin’s peeptoe wedges (£375) and Brian Atwood’s traffic-warden-yellow platform pumps (£425) sold out on Net-a-porter within a few weeks of going up on the site.
“I usually wear my neon pink wedges with a black shift dress,” says Natalie Soud, director of marketing at New York’s Tribeca and Soho Grand Hotels. “I try to keep it fun rather than overpowering. I should be able to walk into a conservative meeting and not have that neon piece be shocking or overpowering.”
Lorraine Massey, co-owner (for nearly two decades) of the nearby Devachan salon, takes a similar tactic, accessorising neutral pieces such as a fitted grey blazer with a neon pink pocket square or a hot orange choker nearly every day. “You don’t want to look like you’re trying to be hip but a subtle piece at a certain age is fine,” she says. “It doesn’t take a lot. It’s a dose of playfulness that makes my clients smile.”
“It’s remarkable,” observes Bloomingdales fashion director Stephanie Solomon. “Neon is probably the leading women’s trend of the store right now. It’s a mood booster – and we all could use a mood booster these days.” Besides, she adds: “Women have been dressing in somber colours for the last 10 years. Our closets have become dark, black holes. It’s simply time to move into colour.”