Meandering through Paris last week, I caught my slack-jawed reflection in a store window upon recognizing just how much black clothing was looking back at me in many store windows throughout Paris. The image authority on color and style who always tells everyone not to overdo “the black thing,” had seen his Waterloo in his most favorite city. On the very long plane ride home to California from France, I did what I do best: think.
My big thought is not a, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” idea. There are masterful ways to wear black. This season is the perfect moment to do it.
Most of my clients who have a complete color profile know that black is not one of their priority colors in their customized color palettes. On its own, black can seem too abrasive for their own natural coloring or for one’s personalities and goals. However, I always explain how to work with colors in the palette so when they are paired with black that all the colors worn are in harmony on the body. This is always reviewed with each client because I see each client uniquely and not as part of a tidy grouping.
I think this season it is entirely possible to embrace a Parisian’s sense of individuality, as an American. This is what makes fashion an international language that don’t require a Berlitz course to master. This language is most definitely spoken through black garments. But to heighten your own personal stamp of self expression, it’s very important to look beyond the color itself and play with layers, textures, and even see how black matte and shiny fabrics can be combined to create non-chromatic depth on the body that allow your own natural body colors to radiate out.
In the United States, where we heavily focus on Italian fashion, the tendency of Milanese designers is to show more ease and tonality. I’ll share much more about this with you during the month of October, but want to take a moment to make this distinction. Even when walking down rue Faubourg St. Honore, one of Paris’ most fashionable shopping streets, Parisian and Italian brands effortlessly rub shoulders with one another, appealing to a diverse clientele of Parisians and internationals. While they each tell their own stories, it’s easy to tell a brand’s heritage without seeing its name because the attitude is clearly apparent based on what you see through their store windows.
The trouble with seeing so much black blaring at you in a store window is that often it’s hard to envision “you” in what the store is showing. After all, are you headless? Do you have no hair? No eyes? No skin? I didn’t think so either! So when we see black, we may tend not to see the layering and the textures. But what we may also not see are the other possibilities. And honestly, this is also the shortcoming of many retailers who look to black as a safe haven color. They often tend not to pair it with anything else except for spacey silver. If you’re not a foxy dude or dame with a gorgeous silver dome, the combo can leave you feeling like you’re on the dark side of the moon.
The answer really does come down to wearing color with black, and to take risks that stores may not demonstrate in their own windows. Some designers consistently rely on using a black base, and by using brilliant patterns, introduce resplendent color. If you are more of a solid person, take a color that looks absolutely amazing on you, especially one that highlights and repeats one of your personal body colors, and try it with black.
If you need to express an independent viewpoint and love black no matter what I say, this is the fashion moment to stick it to me. Just do it the way I suggest and we’ll bond together.
Joseph Rosenfeld helps high-profile individuals revitalize, manage, and be secure in their personal visual brand. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.