Licentiate Column 01/03/12: Embracing Colour

I’m lucky enough to live in an apartment with a great view of Cork City. Every day I step out of the patio doors to observe the to-ings and fro-ing of people as they walk across bridges and roads, talking with friends, listening to music or generally looking harried. It’s like an incredibly passive game of The Sims.

This slightly creepy method of observation teaches me that people are predictable. We follow a certain set of behavioural rules. Woman crosses road. Car brakes to avoid hitting her. Driver shouts something unintelligible. Woman will either scowl in annoyance or nod in supplication, then hurry to cross.

Very rarely does something out of the ordinary happen. Never will the driver step out of the car to have a measured conversation on road safety with the women – and why would they? We are trained to react in a certain way.

Increasingly, I’ve been noticing a change in behaviour in the women who walk past my building. Instead of the shades of black, black, more black and a smidge of blue wafting by, vibrant colours are starting to creep into the mix. A shocking pink coat paired with a black patent belt. Duck-egg blue skinny jeans paired with neutral heels. A blood red and black turban swathed an African woman’s head, making her look, from my vantage point, like a beautiful, attenuated rose.

Irish women are finally embracing colour. That’s not to say we didn’t embrace colour before, but now we love bright colours, zingy colours, pastel colours. Our colour schemes are different too. We’re no longer afraid to clash or to (gasp) wear more than two standout colours at a time.

I wonder why that is. It can’t be the weather, can it? It’s just as cold now than it was in November: a month dominated by yellow only because of the amount of hazmat-ish reflective clothing that everyone was sporting.

I had the pleasure of attending Brown Thomas’ Spring/Summer preview in the vibrant setting of Jacob’s on the Mall restaurant. Light, airy and (you guessed it) bursting with colour, it was the ideal setting for an edit of clothes that were a palate cleanser to the sombre, jewelled, multi-faceted dark tones of this past winter.

Recent additions to the Brown Thomas Cork roster, including Cos,, The Kooples and Maje are pushing the envelope in all the right directions; bright colours no longer have to be garish. Insatead, they are edgy, wearable and look and feel much more expensive than they actually are. How often do we put a bright, high-street top in the wash, only to see it fade into bobbly, shapeless insipidness? In terms of cost per wear, you’re better off getting your brights somewhere special.

If you’re afraid of breaking the colour behavioural cycle and looking like Coco the Clown rather than Coco Chanel (incidentally, not a colour lover) you can easily pair with modern, light neutrals like nude and grey. Don’t be afraid to step outside the sepia comfort zone.

Either way, I have a feeling that people-spotting in Ireland is going to get a whole lot more interesting.

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