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Is Hot Pink Here to Stay?

The electric-pink hue has dominated fashion for the past year, thanks to a collision of trends like Barbiecore and dopamine dressing – and of course, a major boost from Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino.
Models walk the runway at Valentino's Autumn/Winter 2022 show, which has helped set off a pink flurry in fashion.
Models walk the runway at Valentino's Autumn/Winter 2022 show, which has helped set off a pink flurry in fashion. (Indigital)

Key insights

  • Hot pink has dominated runways and red carpets in the past year as brands like Valentino, Versace and Balenciaga bet big on the colour.
  • A number of trends — including Barbiecore, where consumers dress in loud, maximalist pink as inspired by the doll, and post-pandemic “dopamine dressing” — have helped popularise the shade.
  • Retailers are buying in: Intermix just introduced a pink holiday edit with exclusive products it will roll out to all stores.

You can thank – or blame – Valentino, Barbie or 2000s-era Paris Hilton, but hot pink is the colour of the moment. And if some trendsetters have their way, for the next few moments too.

In recent months, bright, hot pink has become a frequent sight on runways, red carpets and retailers’ shelves. Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli Pink, developed with Pantone, is perhaps the best-known interpretation; it debuted at its Autumn/Winter 2022 monochromatic show in March. But Valentino isn’t the only brand taking the colour out for a spin: this month, Intermix launched its holiday dream closet shopping edit — centred around what it calls “Y2K Pink.” Barbiecore, a TikTok aesthetic which features head-to-toe hot pink outfits, has been trending on the platform.

To many consumers, the colour speaks to their desire for looks that feel energising and new. Too many celebrities to count appear to feel the same: Kim Kardashian, Zendaya, Florence Pugh, Anne Hathaway, Lizzo, Sebastian Stan, Justin Bieber and Glenn Close, to name a few, have made headlines in the hue this year.

“It’s almost rare to not see a celebrity at an event or red carpet wearing pink now,” said stylist Danyul Brown, who dressed Euphoria star Angus Cloud in the shade on the cover of Variety in August. “Once people see themselves in it and they see how alive they look and how bold they look … they’re like ‘Oh!’ It’s a shock factor.”

The widespread embrace of the bold, in-your-face colour marks an undeniable end to the era of Millennial pink. The pastel hue was the go-to for the past decade, becoming a signature for a generation of direct-to-consumer brands, such as beauty darling Glossier and period product brand Thinx.

“It’s not that soft, sweet kind of Millennial pink,” said Divya Mathur, Intermix chief merchandising officer. “This is strong.”

Where Did It Come From?

Hot pink has had other moments: Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli was making clothes in “shocking pink” back in the late 1930s. In the early 2000s, hot pink made appearances on pop culture icons like Paris Hilton and in classic films like Mean Girls, source of the oft-quoted “on Wednesdays, we wear pink.” The colour has been associated with a number of feminist and political movements: Planned Parenthood uses it in its branding, and when thousands of women gathered across the globe for the Women’s March in 2017, they did so in hot pink hats.

Now, it’s having a resurgence in fashion. That’s thanks in large part to Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli Pink, though other brands, like Balenciaga and Versace, have also embraced the colour. On the Autumn/Winter 2022 runway, WGSN saw a 138 percent rise in shades of pink present year-over-year, and use of the bright “hyper pink” doubled year-over-year.

Pink made up 10 percent of Intermix’s buy this year, compared with a typical two percent, inspired by Valentino, said Mathur. The number of new hyper pink styles available on mass market retailers’ sites in the third quarter was up 45 percent compared to the second quarter, according to Edited data.

Other factors are playing into hot pink’s current moment. Paparazzi photos from the set of Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling featuring the stars in hot pink looks have helped fuel the emergence of a “Barbiecore” TikTok trend. Barbiecore videos feature mostly Gen-Zers drenched in pink, encouraging maximalist, hyper-feminine, bold and carefree attitude — inspired by the doll.

A wider backslide into Y2K nostalgia across generations has also helped buoy hot pink.

“We saw it the first time and now we’re reliving it, and there’s this younger generation discovering it for the first time and it feels in line with their POV,” said Mathur.

As well, it aligns with the post-pandemic “dopamine dressing” trend, which is all about wearing outfits that inspire joy or happiness.

“These bright pinks are basically all about making a statement. Hot pink and hyper pink show confidence and frivolity — highlighting the need to stand out … it’s a very provocative colour,” said Urangoo Samba, WGSN’s head of colour.

Where Will It Go?

Few are ready to predict hot pink will have the staying power of Millennial pink, though fashion’s fixation is expected to last well into next year, at least through the July 2023 debut of the “Barbie” film. But retailers also have a vested interest in its success.

“[Pink is] here to stay, for sure. It’s just an evolution of colour … Retailers will need to invest in the right pink for the years going forward,” said Samba.

For Intermix’s holiday edit launch, the company constructed a pink room in its store in New York’s Meatpacking District neighbourhood. It developed exclusive pink products with Staud, Gauge81 and Rozie Corsets and plans to roll out a pink edit to all of its 29 stores. Intermix is betting that its customers, eager to try out bold trends after the Covid years, will buy into the colour that’s everywhere.

The colour is a merchandiser’s dream, added Mathur, because it suits every skin tone. That can help cut inventory risk. Neiman Marcus vice president of luxury Jodi Kahn said the store always invests big in pink because product in the “universally flattering” colour moves quickly. She added there’s been a surge in popularity following the Valentino show and rise of Barbiecore.

“Someone that may not wear a lot of colour still naturally tends to be drawn to the colour pink,” said Kahn.

Though the shade would usually be considered a spring or summer colour brands and retailers are investing in putting out and promoting “trans-seasonal colours” and dressing as a way to be efficient in dyes, said Samba. And though pink has long been associated with femininity, both men and women have hopped on board the hot pink trend, driven in part by celebrities: Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton fronted Valentino’s Autumn/Winter 2022 campaign alongside Zendaya.

“It’s opening the door to a lot more masculine men that want to tap into that because it’s almost as though if your celebrity icon has worn it, it’s okay for you to wear it too,” said Brown.

There are signs, however, that hot pink may not be as powerful as its predecessor. It hasn’t replaced the lighter hue as the go-to colour for branding, marketing or advertising. Other shades of pink are steadily gaining attention: Light pink was used as a neutral on a number of runways this year, said Samba. She sees a less loud “fondant pink,” rising in popularity over the next few seasons.

Though he says it’s becoming a bit over worn, Brown thinks it will remain a red carpet mainstay through next summer. But consumers will work the colour into their regular wardrobes through accessories or single pieces, rather than full-blown monochrome displays.

The appetite for the latter may already be waning. The front row at Valentino’s Spring/Summer 2023 show featured countless attendees in head-to-toe pink. Like Millennial pink before it, there’s nothing like widespread adoption to accelerate a trend’s decline.

Further Reading

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Enjoy 25% BoF Professional membership until December 20