When talking with friends about fashion, I can tell that what they see on the runway makes them feel uncomfortable. The extravagant embellishments and the colors of the jungle tend to turn people off to fashion. Consequently, when it comes to dressing themselves, people stick with safer options. When we choose safe options, we all end up dressing in black. Instead, I want to encourage all of to be a bird in the jungle. 

I tell my friends to not turn off to what they see on the international fashion runways. Designers create a collection in the hopes that it sells. A few design whatever they want, not caring if they sell 1 or 1,000. These few designers sketch out and create garments that their wildest dreams gifted them. For instance, do you really think that Marc Jacobs cares what the common consumer thinks? No, he’s designing for a specific audience of customers. Do not let the runways scare you into buying black.

One of my first “out of this world” experiences was on my first trip to London. European fashion is vastly different from American. More extreme, more daring, more “pizzazz”. My family and I made our way down Knightsbridge, hopping from store to store across the street and back. Across from the super luxurious Harrods lies the British fast fashion chain, Topshop, THE extreme of fast fashion chains. I walked in there as a 12-year-old and felt like I landed on Mars.

Engrained in my mind are images of metallic raincoats and blue faux fur scarves from the “out of this world experience.” The obscure colors of Topshop seemed to frighten me a bit. If I wanted a rain jacket, as a 12-year-old, I’d have stuck with the black North Face jacket from REI. The question occurred to me, “who would actually wear this?” Well, it quite possibly could’ve been a bad collection for Topshop. But, the designers had confidence that people would buy the merchandise. I answered my own question by thinking that someone has the confidence to rock a metallic raincoat. Someone in this world looks amazing in a metallic raincoat, someone is a bird in the jungle.

Bold fashion is daring, it takes real guts. Often times we are afraid to try on something like a bright pink jacket. We end up saying to the sales associate, “Um no, I think I’ll stick with black.” Iris Apfel, a New York fashion icon once said, ”Downtown they think they’re stylish, but they all wear black. That’s not really style. That’s a uniform.” What a boring world it is to live dressed in black. Be a tropical bird instead of one among the flock of ravens. Here’s an idea to try next time you’re in a store. Make a last-minute decision to experiment with color when the sales associate asks, “What color would you like to try?”

Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck almost every day, yet he was among the world’s most creative and innovative people.  I am not making a case against black. I am making a case against the black uniform that so many of us choose. If I were to walk in your closet, I would hope to see many colors, the colors of the jungle.

Now roughly two months into my internship, I have seen a fair number of closets myself. These closets are as colorful as a bird in the jungle! Joseph has a unique color palette for every client. Joseph creates a color aura: matching colors to your skin pigmentation, and hair and eye colors. He even measures the whites of teeth and eyes. Even though there are so many variations of black, not everyone looks good in it. Still, people gravitate to black as a clothing color. But, there are so many colors that look amazing on you that don’t look as good on other people. Wearing your special colors, you become that unique bird in the jungle, and look better than anyone dressed in black.

Beyond learning which colors look good on people with certain skin tones, I have learned which colors look bad. One day, on a typical Starbucks lunch break, I asked Joseph, “Can I wear red lipstick?” He knew that I was more interested in bright red, and his answer, “No,” was extremely dissatisfying. Since my olive complexion and my light brown hair blend together, fire engine red was not ideal for my face. Yes, I know, it is a tough pill for any woman to swallow. Instances like these make me want to wear black, but there is a color for everyone. I’m finding mine, and you can, too. It’s up to each of us to figure out how to be a bird in the jungle.