Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colour symbolism

Colour symbolism and the meaning behind colour are often forgotten. Colour plays a significant part in society segregating culture, religion, sub-groups, values beliefs, norms and material component. A colour can signify many different things from death and mourning to weddings and celebration. A colour cannot be defined as its relevance and meaning changes from culture to country. For example white in the western world is used as a colour for weddings and a joyful time in one's life, but half way around the world in China, its representation is one of death and sadness.

It is important to look and analyse colour on different scales such as the micro and macro environments. The colour black is used among smaller bands of people, for example ‘goth’s, a subculture who use black and a monochromatic colour scheme to unite.

Colour gives a sense of differentiation, a sense of whom you are and how you want to be seen. It forms your identity and personality.

Looking at different dress from different society and culture:

The Sari; it is all about colour and making a bold statement. The sari is the typical Indian dress, created by a long piece of flat cotton, woven to create different textures, patterns and inventive drapes. The colour and texture of the sari are indicative of the age, status, region and religion of an Indian woman.

The sari is most known for its intricate embroidery with silk and gold thread and vibrant colours and subdued pastels. Affluence is represented by the border of the sari known as the ‘zari,’ the more intricate the embroidery and adornment the wealthier one is perceived to be. The sari is also worn as a mark of respect for elders, for custom, occasion and style.

The sari above is a classic example of a typical Indian dress. The vibrant hue looks rich and full and gives emphasis on the strong intensity and high chroma. Analogous colour combination is prominent mixing the base colour of red with hints of blue and green. Only small proportions of green and blue have been used against the red to draw maximum attention and focus. Red is used as the base and main colour as it symbolises good look in Asian culture, it is often worn by brides a symbolism of beauty. Gold has been used for decoration and fine detailing. Gold is very precious in India and all saris are accessorised with gold jewellery. It is part of Indian culture and religion. In Hindu mythology goddesses are described as ‘golden-hued,’ to Indian society gold is the symbol of definitive beauty and purity and is considered and viewed as sacred; a figure of prosperity and good fortune.

It is interesting to compare this colour scheme to the western world where red is associated with hot, sexy and exciting imagery; a stark contrast from the purity and beauty of the Asian meaning. In communication terms it also represents love, passion and anger. From a physical perspective it used in many road signs to convey danger and an illustration of blood, anger and violence.

Vivienne Tam

Looking at Chinese designer Vivienne Tam and how she uses colour portrays Chinese culture through her designs. A signature east meets west style; she is predominantly famous for her use of fashion as pieces of art. Although Tam moved to Hong Kong when she was three she is originally Chinese and elements of the traditional Chinese dress and tailoring can be seen throughout her collections in her typically ‘east meets west’ style.

China chic is also a common theme of Tams and explained and elaborated on in her book. A depiction of Tam’s cross cultural designs.

Tam uses embroidery to depict the Chinese culture in her designs. Images of dragons and flowers can often be seen, which play great significance in Chinese culture.

The New Collection
Purple and black and predominately the main colours used for fall/winter 2008, with hints of orange and red. A spilt complementary and analogous colour combination has been applied to give a strong balanced autumn winter feel. Purple and black are cool colours typically representations of the season and high chroma colours such as the vivid intense burnt orange hue add variety and counteract the dullness of the darker tones. Deep red is also used to accessorise outfits and a typical Chinese colour which symbolises luck and is strongly associated with Chinese New Year and the dragon, a festive and jubilant time of year.
Sequence of order can be predominantly recognised throughout the collection. Purple and black are also strong base colours and are both dedicated to a significant proportion of the collection, which leads the eye in the direction of progression. Purple also has strong connections with the Chinese culture and is linked to luck and signifies solemnity. Although a secondary colour purple was often regarded as precious and like the western world associated with royalty and importance.

Another point to note is that throughout Tam’s seasonal collections there is very little white and only the use of soft tints of beige. One reason I considered for this was that white is the colour of mourning is China and whilst Tam still has a strong customer base in the western world it may be considered disrespectful and not appeal to her Eastern Asian market.

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