Feb 12, 2021 | By Emma Grace Bailey
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Apr 28, 2019
By WGSN Insider
As our real-time and screen time worlds merge – with many of us spending as much time in digital communication as in human to human – the colours that we see and interact with are evolving. The palette for this new age has to stand out in both the digital and real life space.
For beauty product developers, the opportunities are exciting. Consumers want colours that pop on screen, not just face to face. It’s a brave new world of beauty.
We spoke to Jane Boddy, Head of Colour at WGSN, and two industry experts, about the tech-trending colours that could inspire a new generation of beauty hits.
“Increased screen time is thanks in no small part to the rollout of 5G,” says Boddy. “As it powers up all of our digital interactions, making them faster and more seamless, any remaining friction between our real lives and our digital ones will dissolve.”
With that blurring of worlds comes a whole new colour landscape. “Digital colour is a land of artificiality and hyperreality,” says Boddy. “A palette created for a screen needs to grab our attention with an unnatural intensity that is so very different to the hues of the natural world – different and wonderful.
“It’s this 100% manmade world that has informed WGSN’s Global Colour forecast for S/S 21, in particular the pop of techie blues. Ever since I read in Wired that over half of the colours on the internet are shades of blue, I knew that it was a key hue for 2021. Twice a year, in April and October, WGSN releases our 40 colours for the season, two years ahead. We also put our weight behind one hero colour for that year – and for 2021, the colour is AI Aqua.”
One designer who has embraced the new frontiers of digital colour is Kerry Murphy, founder of The Fabricant. He develops editorial and clothing collections that are digital-only – they never appear in real life.
“We’re much more free to explore colours,” says Murphy of his online aesthetic. “We create colour combinations that would never be accepted by a commercial brand in the physical space. However, in the virtual space, viewers accept when rules are broken. We accept that the virtual space is glitched and imperfect, when in IRL we want everything to be perfect and work perfectly.”
The digital space isn’t just influencing the nature of colour, it’s changing how colour is defined, as Joanne Thomas, Head of Content at coded colour system Coloro, explains.
The name of a colour can be subjective (Thomas notes that strawberry could be pink to one person and red to another), so Coloro uses a seven-digit code that makes it possible to “describe the colour’s hue, lightness and chroma, allowing you to perfectly describe the colour on a global scale”.
“Codifying each colour allows us to be prepared for a densely digital future,” says Thomas. “Our colours can easily be added into algorithms and allow the user to switch effortlessly between the physical and the digital.”
For product developers creating for both the real world and the digital space, these techie shades offer endless possibilities.
“AI Aqua is such a commercial shade for product developers,” says Boddy. “Put it on things you don’t expect to see it on, and it becomes really interesting. I can picture Stella McCartney using it for a dress, or Nike putting it on sneakers. I can see it on a car, or a pair of headphones.
“In beauty, it would be incredible as a strong accent on eyes or as a nail colour. I can see it used for hair, too – as flashes of painted sections that the wearer most definitely wasn’t born with.”
The message is clear: be bold.
“We have seen our clients become braver with their colour choices in recent seasons,” says Murphy. “Colour is a really easy way to update some classic styles and in our digital world, colour is increasingly being used as a way to stand out on saturated Instagram feeds.” And who doesn’t want that?
Up to the challenge? Gain greater insight into these next big hues with the Beauty Colour Forecast S/S 21.
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