Why earth tones are having a renaissance in fashion
10th Oct 2019
on’t mention the ‘m’ word. At least to anyone who lived through the 70s and in a certain type of suburbia, one that was coloured by none other than mission brown. It is no accident, however, that this shade coloured everything from the walls, to the slub curtains and sunken lounges of hearth and home.
“Warm hues make us feel comfortable and bring us the feeling of safety,” says Iana Kuznietsova, founder of Ochi, an outerwear label responsible for a cult corn-yellow sell-out trench in vegan leather, an earthen hue she says helped launched her label. “Apparently, the perfect shade.”
For pre-fall, and several seasons prior, shades of camel, treacle and ginger have been percolating, and toppling the dominance of harsher navies and blacks. “There is a certain softness that comes with these tones; they are feminine yet have the practicality of black and white,” says Giselle Farhat, director of My Chameleon, who has been increasing her buy of buffs, biscuits and browns for the past two seasons.
Indeed, hues rooted in the natural realm have made appearances both subtle and inventive. At Hermès, Ferragamo and Burberry, it was a stand-in for monochrome for day. The former paired second-skin midi-dresses with matching chocolate sheers, while at Givenchy brown was bold: an ombré leather trench that swung from sepia sunset to rich alluvium brown made for a splendid fade, as equally bold as Burberry’s autumnal patchwork shearling number.
Marina Afonina, founder and creative director of Albus Lumen, says her liberal use of earth tones connects her label to the elements and textures of nature. “I think brown has such a holiday feel, which represents summer, tans, but also all the desirable things in life, such as chocolate,” she explains, blowing out of the water old notions of the hue as drab or lacklustre. “Brown can be masculine but also feminine at the same time.”
New York-based influencer and creative Christie Tyler makes it the only colour palette in her wardrobe, with an Instagram feed awash with tawny neutrals. Hazelnut and camel are current favourites and she says the trend is linked to a return of classic values.
“Neutrals will never go out of style … having timeless pieces [makes] a capsule wardrobe, rather than having a bunch of trendy pieces that will be out in a couple of weeks, and landfill in a couple of months. ”
“From a visual aspect, warm hues and neutrals work as a base,” says Kuznietsova, encouraging women to try them, treating them like a canvas. “Experiment as an artist does with colours on a palette.” If you are not convinced, think of the Japanese. They look to nature to describe colours and when it comes to brown they describe it thus: tea-colour, fallen-leaf and fox-colour. Poetic, and no mission in sight.
This article originally appeared in Vogue Australia’s July 2019 issue.