The key to understanding the color red is to feel it. Red comes with a range of emotions and sensations that I think are beyond other colors. Even if you were blind, red is a color you’d be able to experience like no other.
Red was a most worthy thread to stitch together two days worth of talks about fashion, jewelry, and style at the annual New York Fashion Conference. I am thrilled to have attended this program because it gave me deeper perspective into understanding the color red. We all can wear red, and have experiences and reactions to it. Red is a color that physically exists, and resides in our minds in ways that no other color can or does. Two whole days directly and indirectly dealt with this very thing, and by the time I left New York, I was totally feeling, experiencing, seeing, and understanding the color red.
Think of the everyday red objects you encounter, and the direct responses or emotional reactions you get from them. A stop sign or stoplight makes you take protective action. The Red Cross is where you’d go for aid in a disaster emergency. Moscow’s Red Square may conjure up the idea of Communism, as it is somehow associated with the color red. Though krasnaya, the Russian word for red, has a second and significant meaning, beautiful, which was the intended context of naming what we know of as Red Square. As soon as you think of a red-light district, your mind goes right to sex.
Think of your reactions to red roses, strawberries, cherries, Roma tomatoes. Red has a taste, an aroma. How do you feel about red leather, or a red car? What about the sight of blood?
Like no other color, red conjures up the sensations of pleasure and pain.
Fashion designers and cosmetics producers know all about our reactions and sensitivities to reds, and are very selective when it comes to creating or choosing what will become their own signature reds.
Italian fashion designer Valentino was famous for his red gowns. He didn’t start out making red garments, but when he did, they became the iconic red flame to his meteoric career. Producer-director Matt Tyrnauer told a great story about making of the movie, “Valentino – The Last Emperor.” During the making the movie, the collection Valentino had created was all white. Tyrnauer, knowing Valentino’s iconic red gown mystique, insisted that Valentino make a red gown for the movie. So when you watch the movie, that red gown was more of a movie invention, but takes on a special significance. You might say that Tyrnauer was seeing red!
New York fashion designer Norma Kamali prefers to cool things down with her signature red. She actually did quite a good job of heating things up by designing her famous mid 1970’s sleeping bag coat, and that piece of red swimwear worn by Farrah Fawcett. That one piece of swimwear made Fawcett an icon, and the piece of red swimwear now resides at the Smithsonian.
Red lipstick is a seemingly controversial topic. Wearing it is a sign of strong feminine power, yet even makers of the stuff seem to think there may be a time and a place for it. Of course, it’s not that one should wear blue lipstick instead; it’s more about wearing the right intensity of red for the right moment. People do tend to think about red lips in terms of sex. Can you imagine Marilyn Monroe without those trademark red lips? That said, when a woman knows her best range of red, she can’t wear an overpowering red. But she may wear a red lipstick that causes people from far across a room to see red – and her. When she knows her intent she’ll make the right choice.
Pantone named “tangerine tango,” a red variation, as 2012 color of the year. Officially a red-orange, tangerine-tango has a pungent spiciness that seems to pack some heat. The warm red color won’t be a hit for everyone. But through interpretation, there will be other intensities related to this one showing up throughout the year that may look attractive on you. The demand for this color suggests that people are ready to live a worry-free life for a while, to experience some festivity in our lives. It’s also a popular color in far-flung places, suggesting a continued increase in the globalization of tastes, fashion, and in the power of global economics.
Think about your favorite red. Do you own it? Do you wear it? How does it make you feel? Red is not just a color for the holiday season. It’s a color you can wear all year when you know how and when you know what range of red is best for you, and what it says about you.
Joseph Rosenfeld helps high-profile individuals revitalize, manage, and be secure in their personal visual brand. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.