9 May 2013

Shades of Summer

Spring/Summer 2013
Photography/Styling/Concept: Andrew Dryden
Model: Josh Uema

We recently had a few days of sunshine in London, which obviously ended in rain. But we live in hope, part of which means having the barbecue poised ready in the doorway of the shed. It lives in that no man's land, ready to be pulled out at a moment's notice, if the weather looks like it will stay clear long enough to cook some food to a vaguely edible state (...if you squint at it and manage to ignore the feeling in the back of throat that this may not be quite right). Anyhow, with Summer on its way I have been thinking quite a lot about colour, something that is noticeable in my wardrobe only through its dramatic absence. We are ordinarily encouraged to think of colours in rather simplistic terms, this is the colour of the season (e.g. blue), or if things happen to be more focused, this is the shade of the colour of the season (e.g. cerulean). This colour goes with that colour. This hat matches those trainers. It is all a bit formulaic, and we seem to end up going into some sort of auto-pilot mode when pairing colours.

This is something I am fascinated by, so I want to start from the basics. To question the multitudes of automatic assumptions and chain of thoughts that surround and define my relationship with colour in clothing. As such I found myself taking the step to remove colour, to create a blank foundation built on the extremes - black and white. It sounds simple enough, wearing all black, or all white, or mixing both in varying dynamics. Surely removing all colours but black and white would make for a straightforward platform upon which to build your understanding? However what actually soon became clear was that black was not simply black, and white was not simply white. The rabbit hole goes deeper, and these things tend to once you start deconstructing them (an uncommon thought on a common matter).

What do I mean by this? Well take for example your t-shirt, trousers and shoes. You decide to wear all black, and so find yourself pulling out of your wardrobe a black t-shirt, black trousers and black shoes. You put them on, you look at yourself in the mirror...and something seems off. Not with the fit, not with the silhouette, but something with the colour. Or to be more specific, the shades of colour. For although we ordinarily think of a black garment as a black garment, as soon as you get a few black garments together in one place you notice...shades of colour. A blueish black, a reddish black, a greyish black, a greenish black, and suddenly what at first seemed a simple matter of matching black with black has instead become something far more nuanced and precise (and this before even including the variable of fabric composition and its resulting textures, which create a whole new avenue for exploring depths of shading of their own).

This realisation may strike you as daunting, and indeed it did me at first. But as you start to pay attention, to really focus on the detail and the subtle variations of shading, trying things together and learning from you mistakes, the process is actually enlightening. What seemed to have become a world of a million colours each with a million different shades is surprisingly far simpler. For once you begin to think about colour not in terms of strict distinct categories (i.e. black, white and red), and instead start thinking in terms of shading (i.e. a blueish black, reddish/warmish white and blueish/darker red), then pairing them together and working out how to create something cohesive becomes a far more intuitive and natural process. As with most things where clothing is concerned, I really do believe you have to follow your own instincts and your own eye once you have that foundation of knowledge sorted (and I realise that is a big once, but that is part of the fun of the journey I think).

I am not sure I am ready to introduce different colours into my wardrobe yet, as I am still learning and developing that understanding of pairing shades of black and white. Indeed in working only on to the two colours I hope it allows for less distractions and a more focused study. But I really do think it is a fascinating journey, and one that will hopefully allow me a greater insight into my own thought processes regarding colour and where exactly my tastes lie. For in resetting some of those automatic thought processes I think we do actually end up questioning our own tastes and assumptions about our tastes. It is something I found quite remarkable, in that there were lots of clothes in the past that I thought I liked, but I am now at a stage where I can appreciate them, knowing that they are not quite right for me. It is about finding that happy balance I suppose, and hopefully looking amazing while we do.



  1. Your posts are always so well written and englightening. Definitely a favourite of mine, never stop blogging! X

  2. That's interesting about the shades of black, it's something I've not really thought about as I I feel most comfortable in colour. So I think for me I'd have the same thought processes but with darker colours, I think if I were to wear more black, I'd start thinking about fabrics and textures. I really like the raw and unfinished elements in the designs by Amadei from you've used to illustrate this post.

  3. Great article! We will be linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the good writing.

  4. Ahhh, linen... :)
    I'm not too bothered by varying hues of black in an ensemble. Mostly I wear one designer anyway but still there are sometimes subtle nuances; however, they are only slightly noticeable.
    Good post.