Image credit: Coco Chanel
What’s the new black?
‘Women think of all colours except the absence of colour. I have said that black has it all. [Its] beauty is absolute.’ This from the inventor of the little black dress & Chanel No. 5, Coco Chanel.
Yet in the fashion world, we are constantly hearing that ‘navy is the new black’ or ‘purple is the new black’, or even ‘orange is the new black’!
How about black having its own moment?
After all, how many of the world’s fashion designers promote all the colours of the rainbow but cloak themselves in all-black at all times?
Yoji Yamamoto, Vera Wang, Michael Kors, Jean Muir, Karl Lagerfeld, Tom Ford, Alexander Wang, JP Gaultier ... the list goes on.
So why do they all wrap themselves in this absence of colour? JP Gaultier admits it’s to hide his little paunch – it’s harder to see the shadows that bumpy flesh makes when they’re swathed in darkness.
Others claim it means they can wear any item of their wardrobe with any other. But I like the idea that people notice you in black, not your clothes. The clothes become just a canvas on which a big ego can paint its brilliant self.
Similarly with interior design.
Black disappears and brings the colour, texture and form of whatever is in front of it to life. Like a dark night brings the stars to life.
So when the day comes that your teenager decides they want to paint their room black (you know they’re going to), maybe instead of cringing you can steer them towards this:
Image credit: Black teenage bedroom
It just shows how including just a little warm colour can take the blackness away from gloom and make it sing.
While black has associations with dark moods and nefarious doings, it’s also speaks of power, mystery and allure. For women this is sometimes expressed in the morale-boosting wonder of the perfect little black dress, accessorized with lacquer-black lashes.
The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy...
.. expresses it through the medium of a stunt plane designed to fly into a sun as a kind of cosmic reverse firework:
‘It's so...black!' said Ford Prefect, 'you can hardly make out its shape...light just seems to fall into it!'
Zaphod said nothing. He had simply fallen in love.
The blackness of it was so extreme that it was almost impossible to tell how close you were standing to it.
'Your eyes just slide off it...' said Ford in wonder. It was an emotional moment. He bit his lip.’
(I could explain that Zaphod is a charismatic charlatan with two heads and three arms, was briefly the President of the Galaxy and is Ford Prefect’s ‘semi-half cousin’ due to sharing ‘three of the same mothers’. But trust me, it’s much funnier if you just read the book.)
It seems black is not just a visual thing, either.
According to Comme des Garcons’ Black perfume, the smell is of ‘Liquorice, leather and pepper’. Or black coffee if you prefer Yves St Laurent’s Black Opium.
The taste of black would probably include those things too, though maybe licking leather is not for everyone…
So what does black feel like?
A silky cat? Velvet? Infinite space?
And the sound of black?
A well-informed astro-physicist says that from Earth colliding black holes sound like a loud chirp. Friends contributed ‘the open C string of a cello’, ‘a deep rumble of thunder late at night while I’m curled up in a warm bed’ and ‘the sleek purr of the ’69 Mustang’. Personally I can’t get away from Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones.
Any colour can be the new black.
It just depends on the whims of the fashion industry and the ennui of the buying public. But as Belle Epoque so camply sang in 1977, Black is Black.
And nothing will ever take its place.