Black is one of the most fundamental yet curious colours. The darkest and often assumed as the most depressive. It is at the same time, one of the richest, most alluring and coveted in fashion.
Throughout history, black clothing has metamorphosed in depiction, and perception has altered within each era. Social change, the arts, culture and subscriptions to various philosophies, has caused a battle between colour and the often declared anti-colour.
The Ancient Egyptians wore natural linen sheath dresses adorned in coloured gems, pottery beads and neck collars in honouring the gods; the 1880’s saw Judo’s founder Jigoro Kano introduce the simple black karate belt to indicate ones highest dan rank.
What began in its primal form, developed into its neolithic, romantic and poetic roots, embodying religion, witchcraft and sex. Black secured itself a prominent position in each, manifesting alongside, an ideology that fixed itself to the colour per bearing.
Black is the mourners dress. The widowers uniform. Across the continents, several countries bare religious and cultural connotations to black. Many widowed Orthodox women wear it eternally after a death, whilst other’s merely for a period. Through various derivations, fashion has adopted black as its own cultural custom. A staple often embraced as an attitude.
Like the compulsion of comfort foods, we thrive on comfort clothing. The black t-shirt, dress, heels, blazer and trousers, all abandon the possibility of becoming under or overdressed.
One should never fear a colour-encrusted jacket, silky burnt orange slip or satin red gown alike, just as one shouldn’t avert from a sharp inky silhouette, shadowy velvet sash or twisted and knotted black ensemble. But as a rachis of our entire outfit, black becomes the canvas that embraces, accentuates and nourishes a silver shoe or daring lipstick. Experimental layering of an inky palette, or simple white piping that falls along the seam of tailored suit, enforces an uncomplicated but compelling style. A manageable hue that hides the inelegance of a coffee or red-wine spill.
Black has become the pillar for many designers including Gareth Pugh and Karl Lagerfeld. Part I of Hedi Slimane’s Autumn-Winter 2016-17 Saint Laurent collection was devoid of the unimaginative or bleak, but instead, full of beautifully cut coals. Rich leather culottes, black velvet dresses, suits, thick belts and skinny trousers. Heavily embellished and detailed with gold embroidery over dusky heavy fabrics and adorned with sequins.
Fabrics amalgamated with contrasting fabrics and colours, skilled cuts and elements draped in floral lace, decorated with Elizabethan white collars and paired with animal prints and feathery details. Black became the patriarch of the collection.
It can be asserted that fashion cannot survive without black, nor without colour. Where would the Missoni brand stand without the coloured stripes? Or Hermès, without the distinguished scarf?
Black embraced heavy coloured embellishments at Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection. Forming a beautiful base for an intricately and whimsically designed collection, black, alongside the craftsmanship of design, allowed crystals, flowers, depictions of architecture and citrus fruits alike, to exist as a wearable and classic collection. Becoming a prominent collection, black stood as mediator between merriment, colour and coal.
But is it merely the practically of the colour that makes it so alluring? Or is black about a persona that surrounds the style? Something sexually desirable and captivating?
In 2015, The Independent published findings of a study linking colour to assumed personality traits. It found that people assumed the atramentous colour implied higher intelligence, more confidence and less arrogance than other colours worn.
To exemplify on the findings, cinema has illustrated a number of iconic looks. The connection between costume and character is cardinal. Wednesday and Morticia Addams, Sandy Olsson, Holly Golightly and Sally Bowles are characters recognisable by outfit alone. Specifically a black one. Resonating with many cinephiles are these signature styles and the facade exemplified by what they wore.
The importance of costume design, often overlooked, is what it provides for mood, realism and storyline. What is not told to us in dialogue, is shown to us. But it is not merely the persona of film characters.
Marlene Dietrich, Gene Tierney, Grace Coddington, Rei kawakubo and Oscar Wilde’s work is particularly celebrated. However, the way in which we perceive, define and discuss these innovators, writers and icons, is often through an assumed persona, coming partly from their dress; neither is apprehensive of black.
Black is deemed sophisticated, sexy and often cool. It’s slimming, streamlining the figure whilst it knowingly matches everything. It’s a judicious idea to collect such a colour as an investment piece from within the luxury sector. The timeless qualities and craftsmanship are worth a larger spend, as something that will never become transient. Black will remain, as it has done, as the vertebrae of style.