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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Licentiate Column 17/02/11 Colour Blocking: A Guide

Colour blocking is a little bit like nuclear fusion. We all have a vague idea of what it is, but only people with specialist knowledge can explain it coherently or know how to work it properly. Colour blocking isn't the driving force behind the most powerful explosive men has ever known, but still, if you make one wrong move, everything is very liable to blow up in your face.
This particular trend has been all over the catwalks and in shops for several seasons now, but it has been hovering around the fringes of decorating, graphic design, home interiors, visual merchandising and art for much, much longer. If someone wants to draw your eye to something, be it a window display or a bathroom wall, colour blocking is one of the most effective ways to do it.
And yet, it is damnably hard to explain in simple, linear terms. I've spent a solid week researching and trying to write synopses, but the only one-line answer to colour blocking that I can come up with is this: If you look like a Fruit Pastille ice pop, then you're doing it right.
Colour blocking should be easy. In it's most basic term, it's the wearing a few contrasting colours in one outfit. Yep, it really should be easy - but it isn't. It's the sartorial equivalent of a sixteen year old trying to unhook his girlfriends bra. The swaggering confidence as the task begins soon turns, first to frustration, then crushing disappointment, insecurity and finally, an unsatisfactory conclusion for everyone involved.
There are a hundred and one simple rules for working colour blocking like a pro, but I only get five hundred words per column. I've wasted two hundred of them already joking about how difficult it is, so I'll just give you the basics. This is the fruit of reading about a hundred articles and embarking on some terrible wardrobe experiments, one of which resulted me going shopping in town resembling a human rubiks cube.
1) Only wear two or three colours at any one time. See rubiks cube statement above.
2) Pretend that you're colour blind. Remember 'blue and green must never be seen'? Rejoice, for the restraining order between cerulean and emerald has been lifted. A detente has been reached and the good news is ringing out all over your wardrobe. Red and pink are similarly jarring bedfellows.
3) The Clash is more than just an band. Red with blue? Yes please! Purple and green? Don't mind if I do! Yellow and teal? Why, I'll have a double portion. Please sir, I want some more!
4) Patterns are not your friends. Red and green is fine, if a little festive. Red and green stripes are a no-no. You're not Bosco, but wear that combo and you'll be sent back in your box. Patterns are generally eye-catching anyway, so they tend to have an America's Next Top Model-worthy fight for attention with contrasting trends. Remember, colour blocking = blocks of colour. That means no patterns allowed. No exceptions.
5) Neutrals are a welcome relief. If your multi-tonal antics are on the verge of inducing seizure, break up the colour party by introducing a neutral shade. Grey works well with cool blues and greens, tan and beige colours can look unexpectedly striking with warm tones. It makes an on-trend twist to all the boring basics.
So now you know the rules. Go forth and block your colours like there's no tomorrow. And if you find yourself looking longingly at stripes, just think to yourself - what would Bosco do?