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.

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pantone color of the year 2021 illuminating yellow and ultimate gray women's designer runway looks

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.

pantone color of the year 2021 illuminating yellow and ultimate gray men's designer runway looks

Illuminating Yellow

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.

pantone illuminating yellow womenswear
pantone illuminating yellow menswear

Labels like Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, and Off-White have been toying with brighter, less conventional colors lately, encouraging us to think beyond black, white, navy, and brown.

The italist recommendation: choose a few key yellow pieces you’ll cherish and enjoy using for a break from the routine, like a Medea handbag or Off-White belt.

Ultimate Gray

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.

pantone ultimate gray womenswear
pantone ultimate gray menswear

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!

shop heron preston on italistDiscover more Fashion Trends content: How To Wear Combat Boots, What’s Trending in 2020, and Is Stealth Wealth Fashion Back?.

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