Friday, August 6, 2010

Milla Fox; on my soap box. No more neutrals.

Despite the fact that I am supposed to be reverse saving in preparation for the family holiday to the UK, I have been perusing my local fashion outlets of choice and am absolutely appalled and disgusted over the recent lack of colour in many main-stream retail chains. Actually, I was having this same conversation with the most amazing Angela Vrettas – founder and owner of Scent of Life and colour consultant extraordinaire - just the other day and one that I have repeatedly with my wonderful friend Mel as we lament over the fabulous colour choices offered from our new favourite on-line fashion store, Anthropologie as seen here. It seems as though that someone, somewhere decided that as soon as winter sets in no other colour combination other than black, grey, white, beige and muted variations of whatever colour designers choose to ‘pop’ should be found. Well to be perfectly honest, I’d rather grind rocks with my teeth than blend, lifelessly into the background! The neutral-only notion that dictates what we shall wear and when – Melbourne is particularly notorious for this crime - first came to my attention a good 18 months ago. My fabulous and most excellent cousin Glenda was in town and looking for a new handbag for the up-coming winter season. Despite carrying a perfectly fine black bag over her left shoulder, she immediately began to discard anything with a hint of colour and instead concentrated on anything in shades of tar! Eventually she held up said black bag and asked me what I thought. I thought, I told her, it looked like a black bag. Why did she need another black bag? Why not a red bag, or a blue bag? Because she told me, it was winter, she needed a black bag! Now, we all know that I have nothing against black... I have quite a few pieces of black in my wardrobe – remember the Cue suit. Nor do I have anything against any other neutral. Neutrals are important and everyone should have some because after all, we do not what to look like a circus clown do we? But neutrals should not be the only colour option on offer (are you listening Jacqui E? Witchery?) and excuse me for saying so but a ‘pop’ of colour does not count. I don’t want a ‘pop’ of colour, I want to choose from a whole freakin’ rainbow!

By denying us a variety of colour options, fashion houses no matter how main-stream and budget friendly should not dictate what colour they think is appropriate during any season of the year. Nor should we allow them to turn us into little beige, white, black and grey clones of each other. Colour promotes individuality and adds light to an otherwise sombre winter day. Trust me. If you’ve caught the train into the city during the week, you will know what I am talking about. Sadly, the expectation that we will conform to the neutral hue of the season is not limited to the weather. There are also those who believe that your greatest chance to secure your job of choice is to throw on a neutral and blend into the background. But really, who said we had to wear a black suit and white shirt to an interview? Add a white towel over your arm and you might as well bring your prospective employers the cheque. Why not a well fitted, well presented dress in magenta or green? Or, satin shirt with billowing neck tie in a rich plum? Surely my personality, capability and experiences are best complemented by my ability to put together a professional yet glamorous outfit that screams confidence and self-belief in a colour other than a sunless sky?

In thinking about this issue I remembered a branding exercise I coordinated last year on behalf of women in local government. I asked 250 women who worked in the sector how they would dress local government if local government was a woman. The majority of answers were sadly unsurprising - shades of neutral, mostly black and navy with the odd ‘pop’ of colour for the more ambitious. Sound familiar Country Road? So, the next time you reach for that black winter dress or grey suit with white shirt ask yourself this...are you really trying to blend into the back ground because some said you should or are you stuck in pattern of comfort and convenience because the store you are in actually gives you no other choice?

Milla's Hot Tip: Ok, so despite our frustrations over the abundance of non-colours on offer, the vast majority of us continue to shop main-stream retail chains because we are over-committed, always in a hurry and sometimes have one or two little people hanging off our skinny jeans who are one more store away from throwing a monumental tantrum. But that still doesn’t mean you should compromise your potential or bow to the design whim of your most convenient style house. Once you work out what colours bring out your most fabulous facial features, the world is your oyster. Just as long as you can find the bloody thing. Here are a few stores that I’ve visited lately that offer a plethora of colour choice to start you on your way. Please feel free to add others, and in the meantime enjoy a colourful taste of what could be courtesy of Anthropologie.

Diana Ferrari
ReviewCharlie Brown
Sportsgirl (if you are under 35)
Retail chain clearance stores(multiple season discards make for many colour options!)

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