Why red is radiating as an essential colour for A/W 17/18

The colour red on the catwalk

The colour red on the catwalk at Victoria Beckham and Marques Almeida

Stylists, editors and brands have adopted red as the colour of the moment in unprecedented volume. It’s appeared as both a cover and editorial feature within Marie Claire, Elle and Vogue. British magazine Stylist called it “the colour of the season” and dedicated a whole collector’s edition to it. In a way, its appeal comes as no surprise – it’s the most documented hue in colour psychology but what does this mean for fashion?

Red has exploded as an essential colour for A/W 17/18, but it’s important to note that its growth has been building for several seasons. Our WGSN Colour team actually predicted this important commercial colour trend in 2014. So why does red resonate so much and what’s next for this potent colour?

We first started tracking red as an emerging core colour back in 2014. Rather than being used in a classic way, we started to see an increased usage of red in a fresh, youthful function. We saw these patterns throughout global street style, and started to see influential street brands/ cult fashion names like Supreme and Gosha Rubchinskiy use bold red in a cooler, non-classical way. As red develops internationally within the youth scene, it will continue to be an essential colour within the young women’s and men’s market sectors.

It was at this point in the spring of 2015 that the WGSN colour team put red as a key colour for SS17 .We called this Machine Red, pinpointing the tone of red to have cleaner, sportier qualities (check out the article we wrote on this at the time here).

A little further down the line Red started to appear on the streets, in particular in Asia roughly around 2016. Young people in Asia were rocking red to stand out, taking cues from cult streetwear brands such as Supreme, which channels red as part of its identity. The shift in relationship to colour in this part of the world was notable because it showed that the younger generation in China is reinventing cultural associations with red and wearing it in a bold, new way through streetwear and casual wear, not just in connection with culture. While over in South Korea, we noticed that the street style was heavily inspired by K-pop stars such as G-Dragon and Kris Wu, both of whom have been wearing statement red. In Asia, young people are becoming bolder in self-expression and are wearing a graphic palette of red, white and black.

Following suit was the catwalks for SS16, we saw that red started to pop up in the collections of influential designers collections such as Celine and Balenciaga for SS17, and I’d like to point out here that this is what we predicted back in 2015 as our Machine Red.

Since then, red has continued to grow within the catwalks, “We have seen red increase dramatically on the catwalk year-on-year from 2016 to 2017,”  says Lizzy Bowring, Head of Catwalks at WGSN. Luxury labels like Stella McCartney and Victoria Beckham have truly embraced red as a feature colour.

So what’s next? Red will continue on and will still be a huge business driver through to SS19. Further on from that, we see it become deeper and less bright, its popularity will affect other tones that sit within the same family.


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