Blue is truthful, tranquil and trustworthy, an essential colour of nature and the world’s number one favourite colour. Blue can lower your pulse rate, convey integrity, offer protection and project an image of power and credibility. Easy to wear and brilliant in your home for calm, cool and cocoon, this multifaceted and fabulously familiar colour is again seducing cultures from all over. But this time around, armed with thousands of years of history behind it and alongside the inspired vision of colourists, creators and creatives worldwide, blue is now more magnetic than ever before..and they’re big words. No really. New hues used plus unbounded creative expression bring fresh values and ideals to this age-old colour and it’s characteristics that align with our lives in the here and now. The sky really is the limit. Peace.
INTUITIVE BLUE. Colour is intuitive to all of us through memory and association and is part of our interpretation of the world around us. The way we process colour and how we learn language is connected, we can categorise colours by sight before we have the words to describe them. Colour is inherent in all of us. Favourite colours come and go as you know, linked in to our primal needs, our deep emotions and how we make sense of the world. Colour tells our story, both individually and culturally and across all language barriers.
Blue is back in my life again and by choice this time around, after I kicked it and it’s school uniform vibes and conservative connotations to the kerb over 20 years ago. It was my desiring of the seaside and the freedom of blue skies that won me over during my recent ten-year stint in London and now that I think of it, the seemingly unknowing introduction of a sense of security and protection too. The fact that I was surrounded by it in my day job dealing a WORLD of vintage textiles, artefact and antiques from faraway places to creatives and designers from around the globe, was just another way blue was working its way into my life and the lives of many others at this point in time. It was the Industrial Revolution’s second coming you see, the Great Recession of 2008 bought with it a need for a new look, frivolity wasn’t seen as something you should do or wear in tough times. London and Europe’s antique and vintage clothing markets were loaded with the originals, new versions of industrial design filled magazine pages and design stores worldwide and the catwalk was heady with strict shapes too.
HARDWORKING BLUE. Think vintage. Honest, hardworking, easy to wear and used throughout history in both military and workwear, especially when manual labour was involved and tough fabrics were called for. Both the war and the Industrial Revolution were great for the indigo trade and proved blue’s reputation as the strong and silent type, the colour you could rely on. Blue jeans became the onboard work clothes for the Royal Navy in 1901 and since then denim has been the goto for carpenters, cowboys and the cools ever since.
Vintage workwear from all over the world suited the recent recession we were in, the minimalist clothes with strong stitching, tell-tale signs of make do and mend and fabrics that would last the test of time suited the esteemed London market traders that sold them and their highly prized, Gypsy lifestyle. Their unique and natural way of dressing / with cloth was imitated and copied by many, excerpts of their style seen on trend reports, moodboards and magazine pages everywhere. International designers and dealers had also picked up on this way of life, valuing the patina and the values that the clothes, also objects and furniture of the 1940’s, stood for – hardworking, strong, capable and trusted to last. Big in Japan and the US especially, sales rocketed, rarities were highly prized and everyday items, think that obligatory blue jacket… were seen on the backs of pretty much every man you knew – either as an original or in inspired-from form. This was a uniform for a new generation all over again.
WORLDLY BLUE. Some time way back in antiquity India developed the technique for tinting with indigo or nil as it’s called in Hindi. Marco Polo’s notes from a visit in 1298 tell of a smelly industry taking place in Kerala, it made social outcasts of the dyers then, now held in high esteem. Blue is everywhere in India in fact it’s hard to find a colour that isn’t, but devotion to colour here is different, such is India. I’ve seen the dye used mostly in Ahmedabad on an incredibly forward thinking, organic farming cooperative I visited there – think hand blocked indigo bed sheets, delicate wovens, organic cottons and sustainable silks that are sent around the world for their quality and beauty. The city of Jodhpur is almost completely painted in the colour, a magnificent vista amidst the Thar desert. Krishna is depicted as being blue and he spent his life protecting humanity and fighting off evil and still today, Indian babies have an indigo dyed thread tied to their wrists to ward off evil spirits. Protection is paramount here and woven into daily lives with the colour blue.
Throughout Egypt, the Middle East, Turkey and Greece – hamsas, charms and talismans have been used in blue to offer protection and to ward off evil spirits for thousands of years. The evil eye revival of late via tattoos, textile prints and product design and encouraged by a bombardment of modern and primitive imagery on tumblr, pinterest and instagram suggests a seeking out of deeper meaning in our daily lives. Or does it? This clever cultural crossover culminated in the crescendo of KENZO‘s Fall Winter 2013 collection, a “mythological pilgrimage to the soaring heights of the temple’s pinnacles where the symbol of the Eye beams as a protector in all directions of North, South, East and West.” An iconic and graphic tap into the deeper thoughts and ancient rituals of fashionable forward thinkers that might just keep them safe on the streets as well.
The world is our oyster, now more than ever before. Encouraged by our desire to travel, to see, to experience and the power of the internet – our daily lives are being inspired by the art and ritual of cultures from all over the globe and it’s a beautiful thing. Artisan techniques are again being held in high esteem for the fact that they have been touched by the hand and not by machines, their slower production methods, an antidote to the fast paced culture of today. This imperfect-perfect and handmade bearing the makers mark presents an idea of luxury alongside sustainability and if in the right hands, fairtrade too. A worldly win-win for all.
The high demand for Japanese Boro and African indigo in London’s high end vintage scene, ensued a textile frenzy for much of 2012-13. Prominent textile dealers and traders, such as the super knowledgable Duncan Clarke, handsome Harvey Derriell and magnificent man on the ground Richard Tchemengue were run off their feet trying to get hold of this textile gold, sending it to collectors, creatives and designers worldwide weekly. Japanese Boro and it’s dilapidated chic became especially big time, it’s couture craftsmanship offering a great insight into those that wore it, as well as the principals of the country behind it. In Japan, blue represents everyday life and throughout time Japanese labourers, farmers and fisherman have worn the blue cloth and with their lack of funds to buy new clothes, Boro became a way of life for many. Initially seen as an embarrassment by the Japanese people because of it’s frugality and now highly prized by traders, collectors and designers worldwide and seen as a universal language of make do and mend. The historically significant exhibition, Boro – The Fabric of Life at Domaine de Boisbuchet, in Charente, France earlier this year cemented the scavenger-style patchwork technique as the textile of the times.
Meanwhile, fantastic forecaster, Li Edelkoort and her long-established non for profit Heartwear brand, an organization of established stylists that work with cooperatives in Africa and India, have been presenting a new season of indigo every year since the brands inception in 1993. Initiated to support the survival of indigo crafts and promote their beauty around the globe, it is eloquent collaborations between local cooperatives and international groups such as Heartwear that have enabled indigenous dyers to keep true to their respected trade and to continue using natural indigo rather than imported and synthetic dyes. Also ensuring these ancient traditions are kept alive (and revived) and true to their identity.
BLUE ON THE INSIDE. Our busy lives outside warrant a calm and reliable home front, a safe haven, strong and sure. Blue on the inside brings balance, structure, calm and cool, a bonus being that all shades of blue work effortlessly together as they do in nature. Blue resonates with purity, beauty and wisdom. Spirit, devotion and religious study. It can help ease tension and portray a feeling of tranquility and is used in many treatments to reduce blood pressure and help lower respiration. Blue also projects an image of trust and professionalism, so any which way you look it, blue invites you in and says relax. No wonder we’re seeing a revival of it in homes all over the world. Brilliantly flexible, blue can be classic or contemporary, used mostly in bedrooms and living spaces where relaxation is key, it would work wonders in a space for meditation too.
Designers and decorators from all over are bringing the best of the outdoors in with blue on the housewares home front. Inspired by our nomadic lifestyle, textiles soften the blow of our fast paced life and as easy to travel with become our most sought after accessory, both home and away. Whether it’s via big brands such as Habitat U.K. and their Blot and Zulpo collections for Autumn Winter 2013, an elegant return to their roots of mixing handcrafted with the affordability of mass production. To smart collaborations from the likes of Hermon & Hermon and Indigo adept, Aboubakar Fofana. To Jessica Ogden x APC for London’s new Ace Hotel, an Ace-inspired take on the classic quilts crafted by A.P.C. using their superannuated fabric scraps from Fashion Week shows gone by. Or contagious cool through independent brands such as London’s own House of Hackney and their inimitable signature prints or super stylish Sydney retailers Chee Soon & Fitzgerald whose incredible selection of indigenous textiles are fit for fabulous home furnishings in a bounty of blue hues. These varied artisanal ways with the blue cloth, both big and small, by some of the best in the business, has bought blue back into the homes and lives of many. And this is just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg shall we say.
Cult creatives are in on the act too… Abigail Ahern for one has been dishing up her dark and moody interiors to a cast of thousands for sometime now, think the smart use of blue blacks and grey blues as feature walls that highlight pops of colour and texture so prevalent in DIY style these days and with no white in sight. Favourite stylist Irina Grawe uses colour beautifully to tell visual stories you really want to live in – her sense of colour is like no other and her blues specialise in cool, calm and cocoon. Design blogger extraordinaire, Lucy Feagins of the Design Files made paint-sales magic for Dulux when she boldly used Mondrian Blue en masse in her recent retail pop-ups, Open House. Selected from the 2014 Dulux Colour Forecast, this versatile and vivid hue of blue will surely encourage Lucy’s many fans and followers to similarly create happy, creative and individual spaces with blue like never before.
NU BLUE. Designers and creatives are taking the traditional values of the colour and shaking it up. Bolder than ever before, these high-octane versions of blue, both imaginative and vibrant inject more fun and give a fresh perspective as part of the new colour and design language created for now. Faye Toogood, always at the forefront, has used blue in a multitude of projects recently both for her own brand, her collaborative efforts with Established & Sons presenting a symphony of light called the Conductor at this years London Design Festival and in her recent makeover for Browns Focus. Whereby her use of an ultra and electric midnight blue not only “taps into the spirit of dressing for the evening” but also presents clients at the über establishment with a sense of reliability, calm and cool while they splash their cash. Not one to use design elements lightly, her choices can be seen as pivotal to the colours continued use in the future.
Lucas Groganw’s wonderful and otherworldly works in all hues of blue are many things, but in one, a graphic collision of multiple cultures and playful, pop culture cool that could easily ear tag him as the poster boy for the benefits of blue. Intricate, geometric and eloquent, his linework and modern-day mandala’s laden with pop propaganda sing from walls and a host of other works calling you in to their sometimes celestial, sometimes sexual cause. It’s interesting to note that Lucas’s early black and white works inspired by traditional Aboriginal painting caused much controversy, after which he turned his attention to the colours blue and the criticism curiously ceased… thank the heavens for that then.
Super stylist Sibella Court‘s “Gypsy” surfboard collaboration with Pepa Martin and Karen Davis of Sydney based design studio Shibori and crafted by McTavish boards produced the dyed “Indigo” board in homage to the textile du jour, the end result looks just as good on your wall as it does on you in the water. Play makes an imaginative and vibrant design statement here as it did via the laboratory style demonstrations and brand stations that abounded in the colour blue at Salone in Milan in April earlier this year, proving that the process and play is just as important as the end result, championing creativity.
And last but by no means least is our ode to the ocean. The divine. The rhythm of life. Blue doesn’t get any better than the Big Blue you dive into. You know it. But it’s not all as good as it looks… The inspiration behind KENZO’s Spring Summer 2014 collection says it all…”we have been impressed by the ocean, its power, its constant change, its ability to cultivate life and our reliance upon it…an observation on overfishing in already crowded marine territories, to bring awareness to a conservation problem we all face and to alert the need for intervention on this subject.” So great to see designers using their work and their voice for the good of our environment. Be inspired and HELP to SAVE OUR SEAS. Peace.