Fashion psychologist Dawnn Karen, the first black female professor of psychology at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and author of recently published book Dress Your Best Life, counsels many people, from politicians to parents, on the relationship between well-being and being well-dressed. While her services are in high demand even in normal times, she has seen a huge surge of interest this year from clients who are wrestling with a more modern problem brought on by living for weeks or months in quarantine in a time when it rarely seems worth getting dressed up. In fact, a physician who treats Covid-19 patients came to her because she felt clinically depressed.
“I prescribed wearing the colour yellow in every one of her life uniforms, whether it was under her medical jacket or at home, and within days it brightened her mood,” says Karen, who prescribes colour just as a medical doctor would a drug.
In today’s context, many singular shades have become heavy with political meaning: think of the swarms of protestors in Hong Kong painting the streets in black, or the Black Lives Matter movement in America darkening signboards and social media posts alike. Green, after decades of environmentally conscious marketing, now instantly connotes a sustainability agenda. But what we’re seeing today is an embrace of not one, not two, but an explosion of happy hues, colour-blocked on dresses or dipped in tie-dye by both perennial luxury labels and young millennial brands hoping to fight our global depression one hoodie at a time. Along with a fresh sprinkle of Smiley faces cropping up in the latest collections, designers and consumers alike are ready to embrace dopamine-induced dressing for their own sake as well as, I’ve come to learn, for others.
It's All Good
Take the kaleidoscopic patterns in Richard Quinn’s frothy dresses, or the zesty neons and swirling pastels in model-influencer Irene Kim’s unicorn-inspired label Ireneisgood, which debuted in Paris last September. With the mantra “Good clothes, good vibes, all good”, Kim’s millennial-friendly label is a psychedelic line-up of highlighter-hued hoodies and cotton-candy-coloured dresses “fuelled by my belief that our world could use more expressions of love and encouragement”, she says. For Kim, and for many people, a cornucopia of colour is synonymous with an expression of joy and while her label launched pre-pandemic, there is a timeliness that resonates, and a consensus that joy is one of the few things we need more of.
Fashion buyers are hearing and responding to this plea. Luxury e-tailer Matches Fashion has seen a spike in vibrant resortwear sales despite current times. “We are selling lots of colourful pieces such as the Loewe x Paula’s Ibiza collections, brightly coloured dresses from Valentino and ‘More Joy’ T-shirts from Christopher Kane,” says senior buyer Chelsea Power. “We always buy with the idea of dressing how you feel.”
Another brand flying off digital shelves is La Double J, which was founded in 2015 by maximalism-loving fashion journalist JJ Martin, who launched an exclusive capsule with Matches in July. Martin says her mantra is to “raise your vibration”. Women are drawn to the collection’s dizzying patterns and slogan prints like ‘Ready to Resurrect’ and ‘Why Can’t We Have a Love Pandemic’. “Over the Covid-19 lockdown, the overwhelming feedback I’ve been getting is that people want to re-enter the world in toe-tapping technicolour,” says Martin.