The Pantone Color of the Year 2021 is actually two colors: “Illuminating Yellow” and “Ultimate Gray”
Each year, the Pantone Color Institute picks a thematic color for the coming twelve months, based on the trends and macro influences impacting our fashion, design, and psyches. This year, there are two.
2020’s color trend was “classic blue,” which in hindsight could be interpreted many ways as nothing in 2020 was very classical or familiar.
For 2021, the oracles at Pantone have chosen two colors instead of one to address both the deep struggles we have all faced (and will continue to in the coming months), but also the light at the end of the tunnel. And unlike in 2016, when two colors were also chosen but with the intent to blend, 2021’s opposing tones stand on their own.
The first Pantone color of the year 2021 is “Illuminating” yellow. It’s bold, bright, and cheerful—a reminder that even in the darkest moments of human history, all things come to an end. We love this particular shade of yellow’s incredible power to uplift and inspire, as it clearly has for designers like Balenciaga‘s Demna Gvasalia and Jil Sander‘s Luke and Lucie Meier.
In contrast, the second Pantone Color of the Year 2021 is “Ultimate Gray,” a sort of comfort color. Neutral and clean, it’s the sort of shade you choose for wardrobe staples and basic pieces like cashmere sweaters and wool trousers. Thom Browne is a master of the color gray—it may be the most commonly used shade in his collections—and Max Mara is a solid go-to for gray staples.
Of course, gray doesn’t have to be boring. Alexandre Vauthier’s oversized bow bodysuit is made from luscious gray satin, while BOYY’s colorblock Bobby tote is a study in creamy tones of black, white, and gray.
The italist recommendation: invest in gray pieces that offset other neutrals in your wardrobe, and pair them with brighter accessories and shoes for a pop of color, like a Thom Browne dress or Herno puffer.
2021 will be different, and 2021 will be better. Pantone is manifesting it with their dual color of the year choices: Illuminating yellow is bold and exciting while Ultimate Gray is comforting and familiar, the perfect springboard for your New Year’s fashion resolutions!
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