Day 6

Introducing Ultra Violet, the official colour of 2018

The Pantone Color Institute has declared '18-3838 Ultra Violet' the official colour of 2018. New York Times fashion director Vanessa Friedman explains what that means and why it matters.
(Pantone Color Institute)

Every year, the Pantone Color Institute, which forecasts colour trends and helps companies decide on a key shade for their products, announces their pick for "colour of the year."

According to Pantone, 2018 is all about purple power. The Institute has declared 18-3838 Ultra Violet as the hue for 2018, noting that "enigmatic purples have long been symbolic of counterculture [and] artistic brilliance."

The company points to musical icons like Prince, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix as a few of the legends who brought purple into pop culture.

Given that Pantone is a major trendsetter in the world of fashion design and consumer goods, this could very well be purple's biggest moment since 1984, when Prince released Purple Rain.

Day 6 asked New York Times fashion director Vanessa Friedman to explain why purple is poised to reign in 2018.

Prince's sister Tyka Nelson poses for photographers in front of 'Purple Rain' costumes at the 'My Name is Prince' exhibition at the O2 Arena in London on Oct. 26, 2017. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

"The choice of colour of the year is kind of a funny chicken-and-egg question, because what happens is that Pantone will send on average ten [or more] of their employees to really scour the world for a couple months to pick up different trends in different countries — in pop culture, film, fashion, automotive design, homewares," she says.

"And then they come back and say, 'Well, I'm seeing a lot of this colour, or a lot of that colour,' and that starts to filter down into what they end up choosing at the end of the year as the colour of the year for the following year."

"Once they choose that colour, then any company that sells products ... in that colour will start promoting that product as something in the colour of the year, and then consumers will see more and more of those products when they walk into a store. So it becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy."

Prince performs during the sixth annual BET Awards in Los Angeles in June 2006. (Chris Carlson/Associated Press)

Pantone is right about one thing, Friedman says — purple in all its many shades has proved popular with artistic types over the eras.

"Ultraviolet and purple seem to have some unexpected fans throughout history," she says.

"Turns out that [Richard] Wagner, the composer, liked to compose his music in a room that was fully purple — he found it more inspiring. There are also rumours that Frank Lloyd Wright favoured a cape lined in purple. There's also Prince, who was a great fan of ultraviolet, and in fact a Warhol superstar who called herself Ultra Violet."

Pantone's Colour of the Year for 2018, Ultra Violet.

Given the political and social upheavals of the past year, trendspotters could be forgiven for not predicting such an incandescent pick for colour of the year going into 2018.

"I was surprised to hear ultraviolet — it wouldn't have been the colour that would have leapt immediately to my mind, partly because I think that most people coming out of 2017 were hearing and reading lots of relatively depressing and dire predictions. So I think the colours that were in my mind were a whole lot darker," Friedman says.

"I think Pantone is hoping that Ultra Violet will cheer everyone up for 2018."     

To hear Vanessa Friedman's two-minute explanation of why Ultra Violet is the colour of the year, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.