'It has baggage': Why Pantone's colour of 2018 is so fitting

Innovation, inspiration, and a nod to the feminist movement, are at the heart of Pantone's 2018 colour of the year, which sets the tone for the year ahead.

Not for shrinking violets, the 2018 colour of the year has been revealed today as "Ultra Violet 18-3838", a purple hue described by Pantone as "a dramatically provocative and thoughtful shade".

More than merely a colour swatch, there are social and political messages embedded in Pantone's colour of the year, whether it be 2017's focus on sustainability and the environment represented in "Greenery" to 2016's dual colours of "Rose Quartz" and "Serenity" celebrating the rise of gender fluidity.

This year's theme is no exception, and the colour company's choice of Ultra Violet can be interpreted as a strong statement about the current culture zeitgeist and the ongoing struggle for women's rights around the world. The announcement follows in the footsteps of Time magazine's highly anticipated "Person of the Year", which was awarded to "the Silence Breakers" of the #MeToo movement and beyond.

"The Pantone Color of the Year has come to mean so much more than 'what's trending' in the world of design; it's truly a reflection of what's needed in our world today," says Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute.

Purple has also long stood for sisterhood and solidarity in the struggle for women's rights, and was the symbolic colour chosen by the suffragettes who campaigned for women's right to vote in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is still used by feminists today as an emblem for the ongoing struggle for women's rights across the world, and is prominently associated with the annual International Women's Day. The choice also calls to mind African-American author Alice Walker's groundbreaking 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple, which deals with racism in America.

"Enigmatic purples" have also "long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance", and purple's influence can also be charted throughout popular culture, with the colour synonymous with the unconventional and counterculture, ranging from pioneering and boldly original artists such as "the Purple One", Prince, and Jimi Hendrix.

"We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination. It is this kind of creative inspiration that is indigenous to PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet, a blue-based purple that takes our awareness and potential to a higher level," says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

"From exploring new technologies and the greater galaxy, to artistic expression and spiritual reflection, intuitive Ultra Violet lights the way to what is yet to come."

When it comes to interior design and home decorating, Pantone's colour of the year plays a hugely influential role in dictating trends for the year to come.

"Ultra Violet can transform a room into one of extraordinary self-expression, or conversely its polish can tone down a room with subdued, modern pairings," Pantone states. "Adding spice and brightness, Ultra Violet calls attention to a tufted couch, piece of art or accent wall. As a color that can take you in so many directions, Ultra Violet makes a statement in any space, whether it's one of tradition and elegance or unexpected boldness."

Interior designers and around the world have reacted strongly to the bold choice.

In an interview with Houzz, Sonia Simpfendorfer, creative director of Nexus Designs, described Ultra Violet as a "surprisingly liveable colour", saying that Australians are uniquely placed to integrate the colour into their homes.

"It has baggage. From royalty and the suffragettes to the psychedelic, it has a powerful, patchouli-scented history," she says.

"In Australia, I love the gorgeous pre-Christmas imagery of jacaranda flowers against an intense blue sky, or a huge bunch of irises on a timber table - that familiarity is part of why purples and violets are actually easy to love."

This story 'It has baggage': Why Pantone's colour of 2018 is so fitting first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.