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How to wear Viva Magenta — Pantone’s 2023 colour of the year

 (Imaxtree)
(Imaxtree)

Each year the first day in December brings with it not only the countdown to clocking off for Christmas, but also Pantone’s annual announcement for colour of the year.

For 2023, it’s all about Viva Magenta.

For the past 24 years, the colour institute has declared the shade that will encapsulate the spirit of the year ahead, with previous hues including Living Coral, Ultra Violet, Radiant Orchid and Tangerine Tango.

 (Pantone)
(Pantone)

Viva Magenta is, says the press release, “a shade rooted in nature descending from the red family demonstrating a new signal of strength” that “vibrates with vim and vigour.”

And in truth, this one’s a little tricky to pin down. “It is a carmine red that does not boldly dominate but instead takes a ‘fist in a velvet glove’ approach,” says Pantone…. Loose translation: it’s a shade that treads a line between Valentino’s popping PP pink, ultraviolet and pillarbox red — or as Evening Standard Features Editor Martin Robinson puts it: “it’s basically the colour of a kidney.”

Roksanda SS23 (Imaxtree)
Roksanda SS23 (Imaxtree)

“Viva Magenta descends from the red family, and is inspired by the red of cochineal one of the most precious dyes belonging to the natural dye family as well as one of the strongest and brightest the world has known,” says Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. Apparently the colour is “rooted in the primordial” which galvanizes our spirit, helping us to build our inner strength.” Certainly given the way 2023 is shaping up, a great many of us are going to need some galvanising.

Daniela Gregis SS23 (Imaxtree)
Daniela Gregis SS23 (Imaxtree)

Eiserman and her team of colour experts spend the year combing references from the entertainment, art, design and travel industries before settling on their shade, which has then been interpreted by the A.I. tool Midjourney to create what Pantone describes as an “endless new ecosystem to be explored, called ‘the Magentaverse.’” This year they are also taking the “Magentaverse” to Art Basel for an IRL retina-searing exhibition.

 (Pantone)
(Pantone)

The question I am most interested in though is would you wear it? Can you wear it? Is anyone making Magenta clothes?

Roksanda’s recent show had a fabulous taffeta gown that hit on a more neon note of the hue, while London designer Silvia Astore’s latest collection features a brilliant off-the-shoulder sculptural mini in a bluer shade. But wait, is that in fact violet? I’m confusing myself.

 (Silvia Astore)
(Silvia Astore)

A quick scan of Net-a-Porter and Matches and it’s clearly not a popular shade. Purples? Yes. Pink? Definitely. Red? Absolutely tonnes. But this strange colour that exists where red meets blue? Not so much.

Perhaps that’s because it’s an aggressively bold, unflattering hue that will wash out all but the most olivey of skinned. Certainly very few will be rushing out to paint their bedroom “brave and fearless” magenta.

If you you do fancy tipping a toe into the magenta mania, I’d probably suggest a few key accessories. Or, you know, feel free to ignore it entirely.