Posted on November 30, 2017
Pink wasn’t always cool. For years it spoke to a kind of hyperfemininity, standing in for the word “girl”. It was the color of Barbies and bubble gum, nail polish and Mary Kay Cadillacs. It was regarded as a stark dividing line between genders and an excess of girlishness, and girlishness was not something to be taken seriously.
Of course it wasn’t always this way. When pastel-colored children’s clothing first emerged in the mid-1800s, pink had no gendered associations at all. By the early 1900s, however, that had changed. “The generally accepted rule is pink for boys, and blue for girls,” announced Earnshaw Infant’s Department in 1918. “The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”1 And so it went until the 1940s, when the associations reversed and pink became visual shorthand for “girl” while blue announced “boy”. Despite a temporary return to more gender-neutral apparel in the ‘60s and ‘70s’, these associations largely remain intact today.
Now that is changing and manufacturers of consumer products and packaging are an important part of both responding to and shaping this cultural transformation. To stay on top of and drive changing color trends, it’s imperative to implement strict color quality control protocols throughout the product development and manufacturing processes.
The Evolution of Color Trends
Color is known to be one of the most significant drivers of purchasing decisions for virtually all consumer goods, from furniture to food, clothing to personal hygiene products. Color preferences are not static, instead they constantly change in response to cultural shifts and marketing efforts. Staying relevant and creating desirable products, then, requires understanding and being responsive to color trends.
Perhaps of the most fascinating and surprising color trend to emerge in recent years has been the celebration of pink. Specifically, millennial pink, which Elle Décor describes as “not quite salmon, but not quite rose.”2 The shade began to gain momentum in the early 2010s driven by high fashion designers like Céline, Ryan Roche, and Jonathan Saunders, the release of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, Glossier packaging, and the nebulous world of social media. In the fall of 2015 Pantone announced Rose Quartz, a now-familiar version of millennial pink, as its 2016 Color of the Year, inspired in part by an Agnes Martin exhibit at the Tate Modern. Soon, pink was everywhere.
So what accounts for the rise of millennial pink, this in-between shade, different from the pale pastels of receiving blankets, more muted than Barbie pink? “We’re in a moment of ambivalent girliness,” writes Véronique Hyland in The Cut. “We’re embracing our girlier impulses: our vocal fry, the “likes” and “ums” we were told would hold us back, our #girlboss-ness. But we’re not quite there. We still have to hold something back.”3 However, others believe the popular of pink arises not just from a newfound celebration of femininity for women, but larger conversations about gender fluidity and breaking down of gendered barriers. “As gender sheds its once-binary definition in favor of a more complex, inclusive, and comprehensive one, pink is undergoing a similar rebranding, rejecting the increasingly defunct girly-girls only interpretation of femininity,” says Kim Vandervoort of Salon. “It seems obvious that this generation’s creative types would, knowing or unknowingly create an aesthetic that … mirror[s] the softening of rigid gender boundaries. It’s a pink for everyone.
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