“Unhappy, darling?” asks Gomez Addams. “Oh yes. Yes, completely,” answers Morticia, glancing at her husband and smoothing the glistening black of a corseted gown with a vampire’s collar. Black is to the Addams family what red shorts are to Mickey Mouse – a uniform that signals an identity, a perspective on the world and a way of occupying it.
Black – serious black, gothic black, seductive black, restrained black, sculptural black – is back in fashion. When designers were preparing their 2020 & 2021 collections, the chic noncolour appeared an elegant proposal, suited to the growing taste for restraint and simplicity as we counted the environmental cost of overconsumption and grew weary of ricocheting trends. Who knew a global pandemic, societal upheaval and the jagged edges of a worldwide recession lay lurking in the wings? What a difference a year makes – today, dressing in black seems both a pragmatic and poetic choice. In these turbulent and transitional times, black has gained a poignant new edge.
Black clothing has an undeniable power. Unlike red or green, which represent specific wavelengths of light, black isn’t exactly a color; it’s what we see when an object absorbs all visible wavelengths, putting it in a category by itself. Its singular darkness has a unique visual potency, and its adaptability has long made it open to interpretation by the numerous groups that have adopted it. Black connotes seriousness and diligence, as in the black worn by religious orders. It can be sinister or rebellious, like the black cloaks of witches or the black leather jackets worn by biker gangs. In many cultures, it’s the color of mourning. But it can simultaneously be the epitome of chic and sophistication, yet charged with eroticism.
All these qualities have given black a distinctive position in fashion enjoyed by no other color. The Little Purple Dress is not famous. “Yellow tie” is not a recognized dress code. Only black will ever be the new black.
Japanese designers Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo made their mark in Paris in the 1980s with what became known as “scarecrow” style. Voluminous black gowns and raw-edged tailoring repudiated the bourgeois allure of the little black tailleur and challenged the very bedrock of Parisian chic only to become assimilated by it.
Indeed, black in the 1980s became a way of life, a status symbol that signified discretion and sophistication in a decade that revelled in excess, bling and the pulsating colours of MTV. The fashion and creative worlds took to it in droves. Black Yohji jackets and turtlenecks (purchased from black-clad sales assistants at Manhattan designer store Barneys) became the default uniform of musicians and film directors, while the sheer black Alaïa dresses immortalised in Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” video represented the apex of sexually empowered style.
Given black’s adaptability and allure, it’s little wonder it remains a popular choice for all sorts of styles today. Black-obsessed artisanal menswear designers deploy it for their exquisite leather jackets. Designers such as Ann Demeulemeester have gravitated toward its romanticism, others like Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing to its sleekness. Black colors fancy cocktail parties, and goth kids match their clothes to their black eyeliner as readily as socialites thrown on black for a night out.
By all indications, its attraction isn’t diminishing. At Restore Cph We’ll be flying the black flag for years to come.