Though the color giant releases trend reports every season, the Pantone Color Institute identifies a specific hue — or, on rare occasions, two — annually that it believes will reflect the sentiment, feeling or desire for any given year, based on trends in fashion, architecture, art and other creative fields. For 2021, the underlying themes behind the company's selection are optimism and dependability (which were both often hard to come by in 2020). That's why it picked a bright yellow called Illuminating (Pantone 13-0647) and a classic grey dubbed Ultimate Gray (Pantone 17-5104) as its 2021 Colors of the Year.
"No one color could get across the meaning of the moment," Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, told the New York Times. "We all realized we cannot do this alone. We all have a deeper understanding of how we need each other and emotional support and hope."
The last (and only other) time the company named two shades its Colors of the Year was in 2016; those were Rose Quartz and Serenity.
According to Fast Company, Pantone chose Illuminating as its 2021 Color of the Year first, only months later deciding to add a second hue, with the intention of them being seen — and interpreted — as a pair. "[Illuminating] is definitely an aspirational color, no question," Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, said. "But I think with the solidity of the gray... when you juxtapose those colors against each other, the concept is clear, 'Here’s what we’re hoping for. And this is the solid grounding to get us there.'"
As to how Illuminating and Ultimate Gray might pop up in the fashion space, Pantone wrote, in a press release: "Illuminating punctuated by a touch of Ultimate Gray conveys a message of sunshine and strength. Enduring Ultimate Gray provides a great bouncing off point with Illuminating bringing in some brightness by way of a scarf, footwear, handbag, shawl, tops. With its energetic presence the marriage of Ultimate Gray and Illuminating are a great combination for activewear. The high visibility contrast of Illuminating and Ultimate Gray adds to its appeal for outerwear."
There are already examples of this on the Spring 2021 runways: Illuminating can be spotted across apparel and accessories from Jason Wu, Collina Strada, Miu Miu, MSGM, Thebe Magugu and Versace, among others; Ultimate Gray, meanwhile, is seen at Brandon Maxwell, Balmain, Michael Kors, and Nina Ricci to name a few.
Ahead, get a jump start on 2021 dressing by shopping pieces inspired by Pantone's latest Colors of the Year, Illuminating and Ultimate Gray, below.
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