How and Why of Colours in Everyday Life

How and Why of Colours in Everyday Life

Reading Time: 9 minutes

“Mere colour, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.”

– Oscar Wilde

Bold red to nail a date, sunshine yellow for a swirl in the sun, powder blue for the calm you…there’s so much a colour can say about an individual’s mood and emotions. Colour pervades every aspect of our lives, right from looking at the morning sky to picking the right colour for your room. But for most, the idea of colour is confined within the boundary of one’s favourite colour. For instance, if someone asked you to pick up a dress, you would probably pick your favourite colour unless you are a fashion connoisseur, who understands the how and why of fashion and design.

Ever wondered, why wearing a black outfit suddenly boosts up your confidence level? How being in a house with nature inspired colour palette, instills a state of tranquility in you? Or why the chosen colours at fashion weeks look poles apart in spring and fall? Clearly colour carries a deeper resonance with people than simple the idea of ‘favourite colour’.

For fashion and interior designers, the concept of colour theory stands as a mandate to be followed to communicate with the potential consumers. Established by the great scientist Sir Issac Newton in 1666, colour theory understood human perceptions and not absolute qualities of wavelengths of light. He developed the first color wheel in his 1704 book Opticks. Colour theory is both a science and an art of using colour. It explains how humans perceive colour, and the visual effects of how colours mix, match or contrast with each other.

For example, the pastel hues are more child-like and resonate with the spring/summer season. Bright colours are more aggressive, younger and dynamic and are celebratory hues. Warm colours such as reds, yellows and oranges tend to be more associated with moving forward, they are active. Cool colours such as greens and blues are more linked to the elements of nature like ice, moonlight, serenity and the sea.

For an interior designer or a décor enthusiast, colour theory can turn out to be a spectrum of decorating ideas. One can work it up into their desired space, keeping in mind, the aura the space gives out, the ambience, the geographical location and a lot more. Laying down his thoughts on the psychology of colour in the interior design industry, AR. Benny Sam Mathew, Principal Architect & Co Founder of 5’4 Design Studio, expressed “Different colours speak and translate differently, it’s necessary to understand that there are no fixed rules in design. Do you want to go bold and play with colours dark or light or do you want to be subtle and safe? Ultimately, its one’s choice on how one wants to feel like. Colours like white can make the space look airy and spacious. But using all white in a room filled with natural light can make the room feel like it’s hitting the eye. In this case, if one wants to still feel the same way about a space, one could use dark greys on the walls to neutralize the space. While colours like plum, gold, magenta and violets can give a sense of luxury, mustard yellow, burnt orange can give a feel of enthusiasm and can be conversation-starter. Whereas, subtle colours like tan, peach, dark browns can make the space feel calm. In our latest project “Nautical Love”, the client approached us with the intent of having a nautical vibe for the living room. Unlike the usual, a few décor items were handed over a miniature ship from the Netherlands, a fish and ore décor from Muscat, and frames and a lit globe from the US. This gave us a Santorini vibe and a coastal mood right away. We landed on a blue, white and wood scheme that would overlay across the living room, with white and wood tied in all rooms.”

If painting your home has been on your mind for quite a while, we say the easiest way to choose the best colour is to start with the colours you love, the colours you saw growing up as a child, the colours in your surroundings that caught your eye. When you start with the colors you love, you are not bound by the traditional color schemes for a particular decorating style.

Going through a similar journey to find her place in the world of décor, Purva Agrawal, Founder – Attirail, a new age Bohemian home decor and interior styling studio based out of Mumbai, shared her colour journey saying “I have always been drawn to colour as a child. I am from Jaipur, I was born and brought up in this city which is a riot of colours, patterns and textures so that has had a big impact on how I see and interpret colour. The city is full of beautiful yellow palaces adorned with bright fuchsia bougainvillea. That’s a picture that has been imprinted on my mind forever.”

Giving a hint of detail on how she picks a colour for her project she further added “We ask lot of open-ended questions about how our clients want to feel in a space. I am from a set design background and we used to read scripts and create a back story for our character to add a certain credibility to the space. That’s why for me personally catching these not so direct emotions and feelings is very important to create a space that can speak about the person living in it – as a form of non-verbal sub conscious story telling. It’s not just about a person telling me what colour do they like. For example, blue can be anything. Changing the tone and saturation can make a blue space look bright & cheerful also and dark & moody also. So, what are the feelings attached with that colour that’s where the answer to choosing the colour lies.”

Being a significant part of the fashion industry, colour has entered our everyday language to invoke images of certain outfits that fit specific situations: the little black dress, the crisp white shirt, the perfect blue jeans, the androgynous grey suit. Such associations between colour and apparels cross cultural boundaries too, with Indian brides majorly seen in reds and magentas and greens, while brides in the other parts of the world opt for whites and soft colour palette.

Conversing with us on the lengths of her passion for colour and cultural intricacies, Sujaya Hazarika, Founder – Joskai Studio (an ethical, handcrafted clothing brand based out of Guwahati and Delhi that is deeply rooted in the artisanal cultures of India and textile innovations.) shared “As a textile and fashion designer based out of Assam, my passion for colour and its play on textiles developed at a very young age. I have always felt myself drawn to the culturally rich and colourful textiles of the eastern India that are today the base for all my collections.” Giving us a brief insight of her design and colour process with reference to her latest collection, she added “My creative process usually starts from an inspiration point that I derive from an in-depth research on the theme and mood of the collections. Once I feel there is enough knowledge, we go on to create multiple moodboards, colourboards and artworks inspired by it. Choosing the colour palette plays an intrinsic part of the design development as, I personally believe the impact of a colour on design is of utmost importance. The color plays a major role in terms of translating our inspiration onto the textile and garment along with keeping the wearability, seasonal moods and also the brand aesthetic in mind. In our latest collection we have collaborated with the artisans of the Tiwa community and have also worked with other artisans and designers around Guwahati, particularly in the Sualkuchi village. While collaborating with these artisans we try to understand their designs, motifs, colours, techniques etc., which also forms a major inspiration in our collection and the colour story. We have tried to use some of their traditional color palettes in a more contemporary manner, to give a global appeal to our products.”

For industries majorly driven by trends, colour forecasting remains an imperative factor. Colour forecasting isn’t just about colours: it evokes a collective mood and state of being, which is shared through the garments. Defining the futures of the fashion and lifestyle industry, the global trend forecasting bodies – WGSN and Pantone are closely watched by every designer. In a close dialogue with us, highlighting aspect of colour forecasting for the brand’s SS21 collection – SS21 ‘Vanilla Spring’, Esha Bhambri – Creative Director for the House of Fett voiced “The brand extensively focuses on colour forecasting for each season through market research and third-party sources such as WGSN and Pantone. The handpicked colours that the brand decides upon after the research, play the role of a lighthouse in guiding the entire collection. House of Fett’s SS21 collection named Vanilla Spring is based upon the desire for new beginnings and hope for a future filled with colourful smiles and is inspired from the blooming spring and vanilla skies.”

For some, the idea of mixing and matching outfits may seem exhausting and for others it would just another experimenting gig. To solve your colour matching fashion riddle, here are the 6 fashion principles by Queer Eye co-host Tan France for starters.

  • Start with analogous colours. Analogous colours are next to each other on the colour wheel and share a common hue. When incorporating new colours into your wardrobe, find a color that feels safe to you—for example, light blue. On the colour wheel, blue falls between teal and blue-violet. If you feel comfortable with light blue, add on a teal or blue-violet for a subtle, dual-colour palette.
  • Embrace complementary colours. Complementary colours are opposite each other on the colour wheel and can make for a beautiful power clash: Think fuchsia and chartreuse, or burgundy and forest green. When you make bold colour choices, both colours stand out.
  • Wear accessories that don’t “match.” Unless you are going for a full monochrome look, don’t worry about matching your belt to your handbag and shoes. These smaller accessories are actually a great place to experiment with bright colours.
  • Mix neutral colours. Neutral colours are a great base for working with brighter colours, but they can also work together. Colour mixing isn’t just about bold colours—neutrals like brown, black, navy blue, and white almost always pair well, so don’t be afraid to wear black pants with brown shoes.
  • Wear denim as a neutral colour. Consider denim a neutral color, meaning you can mix it with any other color (including blue) and it will probably look great. This also means you can mix denims. The easiest way to do it is with shades of denim that are similar to each other but different enough that your look won’t be too similar. Try pairing mid-wash jeans with a light-wash denim shirt, or dark-wash jeans with a mid-wash denim jacket.
  • Organize your closet according to the colour wheel. Simplify the process of choosing an outfit by organizing your closet by color. Colour-coordinating your closet will make it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for, and it will also help you create new colour combinations. Grab the piece that you want to wear and hold it up next to the other items in your closet; you’ll be able to see which colour families work best with your main colour.

More inspiration? Falguni Patel, Editor – Ciceroni, Stylist and Sustainability Proponent, shows in this styling video how to use colours to your advantage using different kinds of colour schemes. From fuchsia to blush and orchids, from lime green to ochre and indigo – this video will give you serious ideas on how to mix and match colours – be it Indian wear or western wear!

Aishwarya Menon

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