The surprising feminist meaning behind Pantone’s 2018 colour of the year

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Emily Reynolds
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Pantone has announced its new Colour of the Year, and there’s more to the purple shade than meets the eye.

Looking around, you’d be forgiven for thinking that millennial pink is still the colour of the moment. From clothes to interiors to literally every #aesthetic blog going, millennial pink has dominated our wardrobes, homes and Instagram feeds for most of 2017.

But now it looks like there’s a new pretender to the throne – Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2018, Ultra Violet.

Encapsulated, according to Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, by style icon/all-round goddess Rihanna, the colour represents “originality, inventiveness, forward thinking and non-conformity”.

“She thinks about things differently than anybody else,” said Pressman. “No boundaries.” 

Described as “dramatically provocative and thoughtful”, Ultra Violet is a deep purple shade that Pantone says communicates “originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking that points us towards the future”.

The latter part here – pointing towards the future – is important. According to Pressman, the yearly label is no longer just about ‘trending’ colours – it’s about “what’s needed in our world today”.

And after an intense year for women – from the Women’s March to #MeToo – what better energy to channel in 2018 than that of the suffragettes, who famously wore purple?

Wearing purple, white and green sashes was considered to be a “duty and a privilege” for campaigners: green for hope, white for purity and purple for “loyalty and dignity”. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, suffragette and editor of feminist newspaper Votes for Women, wrote that purple was “the royal colour… it stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette, the instinct of freedom and dignity.”

One feminist blogger also explains that wearing bold colours was intended to “promote public awareness of the depth of the belief for suffrage in England”.

“Women were encouraged to ‘wear the colours’ to show support for the movement and to stand out in the crowds during public demonstrations. They particularly wanted the men that were opposed to the movement to be aware of the connection of the colours to the suffrage.

“In this they succeeded. The characters on many anti-suffrage postcards drawn by male artists of that period were often draped in sashes and banners of purple, white and green, presuming that a suffragette would be recognised by her colours even by the opposition of the movement.”

2018 also marks 100 years since the historic Representation of the People Act,  which gave many women the right to vote – so what better excuse do you have to channel suffragette purple over the next 12 months?

Image: Pantone