The Color Palettes of My Life.
Color has played an incredibly important role in my life, as I’m sure it has for most designers. Some of my most vivid memories over the course of what is now a 25-year career (holy shit) are color palettes, color moments, color memories and color schemes that have inspired me over my life. Enjoy.
Gay Little Rainbows. I’m probably six or seven years old, and I begged my mother to buy me a packet of felt-tip pens: the first thing I did when I got them was take them all out of the packet and re-arrage them in perfect (or so I thought) rainbow formation, something I still do to this day. I can’t stand ”random” colors when there is a spectrum waiting to be created. I know, tragic.
Techno-Neon Textiles. I was 19 and in my first year of college in 1982 when Ettore Sottsass & Associates “Memphis” movement first hit. I was obsessed with their clashing, vibrant, color-chromatic textiles, and, as my first year college show later that year testified, geometric shapes, lined in black and white checks, were a prevalent theme.
Retro-Kitsch Pastels. Again this color palette has strong associations of place. I first went to Milan in 1984 and the Milanese “Paninari” movement was in full swing - Levis jeans worn on Vespa scooters with pastel Bennetton and Fiorrucci polo shirts (popped collars, of course) and Timberland shoes. I wore them all, and my work at the time reflected it. I remember thinking it was all very “Pet Shop Boys” of me. God.
Starck Materialist Cool. Again, such geographic memories here - being in Paris in 1987, going to Café Costes in a black turtleneck, drinking bad expensive coffee and thinking that I was the living embodiment of the existential designer. Pastel sea-green frosted glass combined with warm cherry wood and polished concrete, now sadly replicated in a million “designer” hotels and bad boutiques - at the time it all seemed so glamorous.
Yohji Velvet Dusk. I was and still am obsessed with both Yohji Yamamoto and Nick Knight, and this image is the perfect overlap - smoky velvet lounge colors (perfectly copied in Madonna’s “Express Yourself” video), the beautiful composition, lighting and of course, The Clothes. I was working in fashion at the time must have art-directed a million chartreuse, aubergine and navy somethings. Still love this.
Bjorky Shanghaiese Techno-Acid. Late 90’s, living in New York, still holding on to the last vestiges of my youth (but only just) and again, Nick Knight’s supreme image, Alexander McQueen’s amazing costumes, and of course, Bjork’s amazing cultural zeitgeist summed up the period perfectly. Vintage acid colors for modern acid times.
My. Own. Colorblind. Jesus. So…I met him, fell in love with him, lived with him for 20 years and then married him, therefore I am pretty biased. Jim Cooper is a great photographer, and my own personal favorite thing about him is that he is colorblind and yet somehow intuitively does color better than anyone I know. And yes, we live in an almost all-white house and regularly discuss how we are “nervous” about bringing more color into our lives. Go figure.
Mr. Big’s Wall. In “Sex And The City,” Mr. Big decides to ‘experiment with color’ and spontaneously paints one whole wall of his Park Avenue apartment bright red. We of course copied, and did the same thing in our apartment downtown, justifying it by saying lame things like “red is neutral.” It lasted for a while, and to this day, we have a lot of red accents, against all the white. Probably my favorite color, other than no color.
Screenprinted Matt Retro. Again, a minor passing fad, a look-backwards glance at a craft that I used to while-away hours doing and a lost youth embodied in shades of muddy inky flatness. Minor, not major.
Chromatic Gymnastics. I pride myself on having both a great sense of smell and a great ability to single colors out in an un-colored crowd, so this Nick Knight image probably says more about my ability to differentiate between 50 Shades of Grey (sorry, couldn’t resist) than anything else. I love the whole complexity and mental challenge in the almost-ness of all the colors, and the inky subtlety of it is the chromatic equivalent of drinking fine wine, contrasted with the lager-swilling color palettes of my acidly-colored youth. Color maturity finally comes to me at 49.