Hunting Down the New Black…

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Marsala, a muted shade of reddish brown, was decreed the colour of 2015 by Pantone, the global authority on colour. But can a single colour truly define 365 days?


Every year designers of all stripes wait in anticipation for the Pantone Color Institute to unveil its colour of the year. This is the single hue that is set to influence tastes for the next 12 months. Last year’s colour of choice was Radiant Orchid, a zingy shade of purple that was said to herald an era of economic recovery and optimism. Its predecessors Emerald (2013) and Tangerine Tango (2012) are similarly vibrant tones. But this year’s Pantone Color of the Year, a muted shade of brick-red branded ‘Marsala’, evokes a very different mood.

The colour of 2015 is rich, sophisticated, and elegant. “While captivating Radiant Orchid, the 2014 colour of the year, encouraged creativity and innovation, Marsala enriches our mind, body, and soul, exuding confidence and stability,” explains Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute.

Selecting the Pantone Colour of the Year is a big deal. The announcement has a cult-like following among creatives and retailers looking for that secret ingredient to boost future sales, but Pantone’s decision-making process remains shrouded in mystery. Each year Pantone gathers a committee of international colour forecasters whose identities are largely kept secret. The group debates colour-related trends gathered from around the world. Influences range from art exhibitions to emerging trends on the streets. Eventually the group collectively decide on the hue that is destined to become the new black.

While the concept of colour forecasting sounds a little abstract, it is almost as old as the fashion industry itself. In the late 19th century colour cards issued by French textile mills were snapped up by their US counterparts, keen for some inspiration and direction. Sceptics may argue that fuss over a single colour is unwarranted, but it’s hard to deny that colour helps to forge some striking mental associations, from political leanings to emotional wellbeing. Colour is often used as a way for brands to build a sense of identity and exclusivity. Tiffany’s robin’s egg blue and Harrods’ racing green are both unmistakable, and the signature red soles on Christian Louboutin shoes are deemed unique enough to justify lawsuits against rivals that have attempted to replicate the colour.

But why did Pantone choose Marsala? Eiseman says, “We felt it was time for something that spoke to people’s real needs – the need of nurturing, the need for something more robust that had a life force that was intrinsic to it. The most interesting thing about Marsala, I think, is that even though it has this grounded influence, this earthy undertone we see in the wine-red, at the same time, it has this sophistication. There is something very versatile about the colour.” She also argues that there are infinite applications: “This hearty yet stylish tone is universally appealing and translates easily to fashion, beauty, industrial design, home furnishings, and interiors.”

Marsala for Fashion

When it comes to the design industry, it’s fascinating to track the inroads Marsala has made. It has already been seen in influential fashion houses’ recent collections – Marsala trousers, coats, and dresses appeared in the Spring/Summer 2015 menswear and womenswear by Dries Van Noten, Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Burberry Prorsum.

Eiseman believes that the colour will continue to gain ground in 2015, and she expects to see the hue used in floral prints and striping, and as a dramatic accompaniment to neutrals such as warmer taupes and greys. The shade is also a perfect fit for the 1970s-inspired fashion silhouettes currently hitting store shelves.

Marsala for Beauty

Unlike its predecessor Radiant Orchid, Marsala possesses the rare quality of being flattering to all skin tones, which makes it a welcome addition to any make-up palette. Eiseman recommends pairing the hue with peachy pinks, bronze, and antique gold metallics, as well as smoky-neutral tones. It also makes for a brilliantly elegant nail polish. The colour lends itself to scent, too: richly toned leather, juniper, pomegranate, and rhubarb are all on track to become big fragrance trends this year.

Marsala for Interiors

When it comes to the home, Marsala’s power lies in its ability to provide a rich accent without being overpowering. It is therefore perfect for introducing some welcoming warmth into a sleek and minimal décor.

Marsala Must-haves


Flattering, classic, elegant, and sophisticated – Dior Vernis, Hypnotic 918 nail lacquer deserves a permanent place in every beauty cabinet.



One of the newest offerings from the celebrated fitness brand sees Fitbit’s latest technology developments combined with this year’s most voguish colour. The Charge wristband offers features normally seen in smartwatches, including text display and caller-ID display so users can see who’s calling on a Bluetooth-paired smartphone. It also tracks steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, floors climbed, and active minutes.


Saint Laurent Paris

Erring on Marsala’s dark side, this discreet zip-around deep magenta leather wallet features a gold embossed Saint Laurent logo and is roomy enough to fit all the essentials (and a fair few non-essentials too).


The Rug Company, Alexander McQueen

Inspired by the feather butterflies that adorned gowns in Sarah Burton’s first collection for Alexander McQueen, the Monarch Fire rug is hand-knotted using silk to capture the delicate shimmering movement of a butterfly.
US$288 per square foot


Tom Ford

Perfect for negotiating the tricky sartorial space that exists between smart and casual, these exquisite Charles Leather Monk Strap brogues provide the perfect finishing touch to any outfit.



No one does statement jewellery quite like Bulgari, and this tourmaline MVSA cocktail ring is the perfect showstopper. Part of the Roman jeweller’s new MVSA collection, the 18k pink-gold ring comprises mother of pearl, pavé diamonds, and a tourmaline centrepiece.


Paul Smith

With their upswept lenses and oversized frames, these Roslin sunglasses are the perfect go-to summertime accessory. Handmade in Italy.


Sephora+Pantone Universe

Quick to get a head start on this year’s biggest colour, Sephora has partnered with Pantone to create a limited-edition range of Marsala beauty products. The Marsala Metalshine all-day liquid eyeliner has a subtle metallic finish that cleverly enhances the lash line.



The celebrated Swedish candlemaker has collaborated with fashion photographers and husband-and-wife duo Inez and Vinoodh to create 1996, a limited-edition scented candle inspired by a photograph taken by the couple that year. The heady scent combines juniper berries, violet, black amber, patchouli, and vanilla, and is encased within a hand-poured glass container.


The Row

This richly hued crocodile bucket bag is handcrafted in Italy and finished with logo-engraved, gold-tone hardware. The bag features a suede-lined interior and an adjustable shoulder strap, so that it can be carried by hand or slipped onto the shoulder.

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