Inspiration: Pantone’s Colours of Spring/Summer 2020

With excitement buzzing around Pantone’s recent release of their colours for Spring/Summer 2020, we looked through each of the shades, how they are represented in the Bridgeman Archive, and some of the connotations that surround them.

The spring/summer 2020 colour palette offers a wide variety of shades, from the overtly vibrant in ‘Biscay Green’ and ‘Flame Scarlet’ to the more muted, earth-toned shades such as ‘Cinnamon Stick’ and ‘Chive’. Through this broad range of distinctive hues there is inspiration for many moods, products and applications.

THE NEON DEMON, Elle Fanning, 2016. ph: Gunther Campine /© Broad Green Pictures /courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection / Bridgeman Images

Flame Scarlet – A vibrant red that is timelessly classic and it’s not difficult to see why. Making a bold statement wherever it is seen, this colour is surely to not be missed. Exuding ‘confidence and determination’ according to Pantone, this shade is head-turning and aggressively performative. In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and with 2020’s election looming, its fiery red has become synonymous with the neckties and baseball caps of the republican campaign. It’s been suggested, however, that the colour is associated more closely with giving a voice to women. Take Lizzo’s fiery red, strapless Moschino gown at the VMAs, or the draped scarlet accent of Bee Shaffer’s Met Gala suit. Flame Scarlet is a declaration of unapologetic confidence.

ROSSINI Gioachino – Statue / © Graham Salter / Bridgeman Images

Saffron – This is a wonderfully bright yellow shade that seems to hold an almost luminous quality to it – a quality that will only be heightened and emphasised by the sunlight. Saturated with the freshness of spring, the tone is a determined bolt of brilliant light through the more muted, maritime palette. Pantone’s colour expert Leatrice Eisman uses a food-centric approach to colour trends, constantly exploring the food and drink industry to find out what’s pleasing not only our eyes, but also our taste buds this season. Even more expensive than gold, saffron is an opulent and aromatic addition to the colour palette.

Lower Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, UK (photo) / Photo © Alain Le Garsmeur / Bridgeman Images

Classic Blue – As classic as the name of this shade suggests, its ageless nature emphasised as you look back into the rich history of the colour blue itself and how it was revered and treasured. Sky and sea, the tone is a calming constant, a dependable splash of colour that epitomises the nautical essence of the palette. The soothing hue has always been a stalwart of interior design and wardrobes, and Pantone’s Classic incarnation is credit to its durability. Michelle Obama often steps out in this cool, simple blue, sophisticated and elegant in gowns and suits that epitomise classic chic. The palette’s primary colours are gently polarising; the steady Democatic blue stands firm beside the bold red.

Trade card, Rifle Corps Stores (engraving), English School, (19th century) / Private Collection / Look and Learn / Valerie Jackson Harris Collection / Bridgeman Images

Biscay Green – An aqua shade that seems to reference tropical waters or pieces of bubble-gum hails to the great swathes of neon that have taken over festivals and aspects of fashion this year, though it manages to be slightly more muted and henceforth much more versatile. The colour has a fresh, clean feeling that promises newness an exploration; even the name plants holiday plans into our consciousness. Its more pastel, gentle hue is a distinctive nod to the flavours of youth, reminiscent of the soft green of a macaroon, the tart sweetness of a butter-mint.

Shakespeare, Lysander, from ‘The Faces of Shakespeare’ (oil on canvas), Annick Gaillard / Private Collection / © Annick Gaillard / Bridgeman Images

Chive – A bolder green following on from the muted olive tone that appears to be popular around the autumn/winter months, a stunning shade that seems to hold references to freshly cut grass and summer garden salads. Natural and rustic, the deep, earthy hue reminds us of a refreshing, restorative green juice. Eiseman has emphasised wellness culture’s role in popularising the colour but thinks the colour shouldn’t be confined only to our food. Health and vitality is the essence of this colour, and can be spotted consistently on the red carpet by the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge and Emma Stone.

FOLLOW THAT DREAM, Elvis Presley, 1962 / Everett Collection / Bridgeman Images

Faded Denim – A colour that holds connotations of worn-in jeans and a nostalgic nod to the 90s that follows on from the great amount of influence the decade has had on fashion recently with the appearance of neon and flared jeans everywhere. Laid back and easy-going, this tone is one of comfort and familiarity. Its muted blueness has a calm, relaxed feel, especially in partnership with the electricity of the palette’s bolder colours. Who can forget Britney and Justin’s 2001 double-denim looks at the AMAs? It’s a trailblazing colour with a history of sartorial glory.

Inteior of the mausoleum, Dulwich Picture Gallery (photo) / Bridgeman Images

Orange Peel – An orange shade with a name that references the idea of summer and fresh fruit. Less vibrant than the average cliché shade of orange that typically springs to mind, it becomes a lot more adaptable and easily used. Orange is feared in many a wardrobe for its extraordinary ability to sallow complexions, but Orange Peel is a nonthreatening zesty hue with the ability to brighten and rejuvenate. Warm and citrus-fresh, it has an air of versatility that is essential for pairing and layering.

A mobula ray, Mobula diabolus, just below the surface of the sea / James Forte / National Geographic Image Collection / Bridgeman Images

Mosaic Blue – The third blue shade on this list and a perfect middle ground between the muted tone ‘Faded Denim’ poses and the much bolder ‘Classic Blue’, acting as a reflection of the clear sky on a day void of clouds or hideous weather. The tone maintains a sense of the classic without the deepness of the first blue of the collection and has a sense of vibrancy not evident in the second. It is the azure of a summer’s day that compliments the sunny warmth of ‘Orange Peel’. Teal in tone and reminiscent of Van Gogh, it has the sophisticated exoticism of ancient tesserae.

A delicate sun decoration, 1938-39 (wall painting), Rex Whistler (1905-44) / Mottisfont Abbey, Hampshire, UK / National Trust Photographic Library / Andreas von Einsiedel / Bridgeman Images

Sunlight – The very name of this shade holds spring and summer in its fingertips, a beautiful pale yellow that seems to embody warm evenings spent outside and stretches of sandy beaches. Its yellowness is ephemeral and whimsical, and its pastel tone reminds us of the faded, crisp pages of an old novel. The warmth of this shade is delicate, unobtrusive. A glass of limoncello on a frayed yellow tablecloth, warmed by the summer sun. Cate Blanchett shone at the 2005 Oscars in ‘Sunlight’-esque Valentino; the silk taffeta gown has since been named one of the best Oscar dresses in the award show’s history.

Study of Perseus in ‘The Call of Perseus’, from The Perseus Series, a decorative scheme for the Music Room of Arthur Balfour, (1875-85) (crayon, pencil and chalk), Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-98) / Private Collection / Photo © The Maas Gallery, London / Bridgeman Images

Coral Pink – After ‘Living Coral’ was justly named Pantone’s ‘Colour of 2019’ it’s no surprise that they’ve branched off into this slightly more demure shade in time for 2020. Faithful to the coastal theme of the collection, the pink is natural and organic. Coral, submarine and beautiful, has an air of mysterious exoticism about it. The colour itself maintains this unique, stand-out quality, especially when layered with cooler tones. Its warmth is offset by a bright fleshiness, a soft rosy blush. Jessica Alba’s mermaid style coral pink dress epitomises this enigmatic ocean feel of the colour.

Ancient Navajo cliff dwelling and petroglyphs (photo) / James Forte / National Geographic Image Collection / Bridgeman Images

Cinnamon Stick – An earth toned auburn with elements of orange and brown running throughout, it follows closely to the rustic western trend that has circled around the past year and the shades of tan that encompass it. It is rust and autumn leaves; it is a state of graceful decay. The colour’s warmth is spiced and aromatic, providing a beautifully complementary base for sweeter, punchier colours. Margot Robbie’s light Grecian gown in ‘Cinnamon Stick’ in Hollywood was the perfect pairing with the dry heat of LA.

Brittany – Morbihan – La Ria d’Etel – Island of St-Cado at dawn / photo © Herve Gyssels / Bridgeman Images

Grape Compote – A beautiful shade of purple that seems to mirror the idea of freshly made dessert as well as how the sky adopts a myriad of colours as the sun sets. The purple is an indulgent, jammy hue, reminiscent of the kind of sweetness that lingers in your mouth long after eating. Perfect for both food and fashion, the colour has been called a useful neutral to use as a dependable base for alternative shades. Tina Fey’s simple dress in this colour had a timeless sophistication.

Spring/Summer 2020 Classics

This set of four shades each act as the perfect base in which you can both build upon and keep monochromatic without it becoming too overpowering. Timeless and eternal, these shades are no doubt going to remain a constant statement across the board.

September Morn, c.1912 (oil on canvas), Paul Chabas (1869-1937) / Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA / Bridgeman Images

Lark – This colour happens to hold an almost golden aura around it, with the name itself reminiscent of birds endorsing the fact that this shade is constantly emigrating into our lives when the warm weather comes around. The earthy khaki tone is offset by the air of burnished gold, of treasured artefacts. This hue’s suitability all-year round gives credit to its versatility, its understated warmth a suitable addition to any season. Fendi’s 2019 collection with Karl Lagerfeld utilised this sandy tone in a number of pieces.

Dreaming Voices 3, 2012, (lithograph), Susan Aldworth / Private Collection / © Susan Aldworth / Bridgeman Images

Navy Blazer – Simplistic and elegant, with the name suggesting the idea of suits worn to garden parties it almost holds a sense of nostalgia that easily justifies the colour being named a ‘classic’. There is a certain paradoxical warmth to the deep navy that reminds us of the colour’s enduring quality and its ability to adapt. Look no further than Meghan Markle’s custom Givenchy navy jumper, paired gracefully with a matching Givenchy skirt, flashes of Classic Blue visible in the pleats.

Daily life: family of the nobility during a sumptuous meal, 18th century. Illustration by Giorgio Albertini / Photo © Giorgio Albertini / Bridgeman Images

Brilliant White – A shade that is classically elegant and remains stunning whether kept singularly as a monochrome or built upon with any one of the colours you can see within this list. Placed clean against the chromatic profusion of the rest of the palette, it has a refreshing crispness about it that compliments the intensity of its counterparts. White will never go out of fashion, and its pride of place in Pantone’s palette reminds us that when all colours are mixed, the resulting tone is white. Pristine and chic, it is a useful base or accent colour.

The strain upon pent emotion reached its climax (litho), Worth Brehm (1883-1928) / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

Ash – A cool toned grey shade that honestly seems to remain classic no matter what season it is, but a welcome step up from the much darker shades of grey and black that are typically seen within the colder months. It is a basic, stony base for layering, a stalwart of the collections of a series of notable designers. It has the mystery of a black-and-white photo but the familiarity of urban, concrete greyness. Classic and essential, it is professional with an understated glamour.

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