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Not Dead Yet: Black, Grey and White for FW2017
By Marcie Cooperman on May, 14 2017

So much color this year for FW 2017!  Clear, intense hues mark this season, with large color-blocked areas, strong complementary contrasts and strong color relationships.  And yet, hiding among all that noise is a refined exploration of achromatics!  Far from dead, grey, black and white are alive and well.  And grey is even demonstrating its own hot trend.

For grey, the focus is on sophisticated factors such as how dark or light it is, the particular hue of grey used, and the quantities of each area in the entire outfit.

Grey is not completely achromatic; it often has a chromatic cast.  It may look slightly blue, or brown, which becomes apparent when two different hues are placed together.  Valentino menswear plays with this contrast with its outerwear over suits, making them appear to be completely different colors.


For Balmain, many values and hues of grey form the basis for the design.  Squint your eyes to look at the black and white patterns in the cover image, and you can see that they mix optically to form a middle value grey, especially visible paired against the black jacket.  Black itself has different values when rendered in various materials, like leather against fabric or transparent laces. 


Chanel uses texture and levels of value to make an achromatic color story. Grey can be so rich.


Black is art – it’s sculptural and physical.  Something about this particular hue gallantly eliminates itself as a factor and lets the shape go beyond color to structure alone.  Designers who see form as their chief creative feature focus on gathers, pleats, varied lengths, and slender versus voluminous silhouettes.  Such a designer is Yohji Yamamoto, who relies on black to convey formed and fulminating constructs.

Yohji YamamotoYohji Yamamoto

Several designers like Dior and Yohji Yamamoto also realized the power of a small amount of chromatic hue encased in an overall black outfit.  Yohji balanced the saturated hue against a capacious form on the opposite side of the body, where Dior saw it as more of an overall central balance issue. 

From the left: Dior | Dior | Yohji Yamamoto | Yohji YamamotoFrom the left: Dior | Dior | Yohji Yamamoto | Yohji Yamamoto

Christian Dior himself said: “Among all colors, navy blue is the only one which can ever compete with black, it has all the same qualities.”  And for FW2017, Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri used navy like black, playing with the ever-present question:  “is it black or navy?” 


Chanel uses charcoal grey as a stand-in for traditional black, the way Dior uses navy. It’s paired against very light grey, white, and middle grey, but not black itself.  That dress on the right has a blue cast… or is it actually navy?


It turns out that a theme of many colors can exist within the confines of one hue, if that hue is grey.  The key is to identify the very small amount of chromatic hue that skews the grey to one side or another, and then to work with hue relationships as you would with chromatic hues. 

Feel free to check out my textbook called Color: How to Use It by Marcie Cooperman, published by Pearson.

Color and how to use it