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Colour report: Neons are illuminating fashion's future

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: Yeezy x Gap

Neon lights are often associated with 90s raves, the arts, subculture and ubiquitous storefront signs. They hit peak popularity between 1920 and 1960, when streets were aglow and neons marked a business’s wares and services, everything from clothing at department stores to louche nightclubs in back alleyways.

But the colour neon and buzzy brights are back for 2022, particularly in activewear, accessories, outerwear, beauty and in the digital landscape. In beauty, neon colours have sparked a new craze fueling creativity and individualism amongst Gen Z, who are more comfortable experimenting with brightly dyed hair and playful makeup for self-expression. Reports from Nikkei Asia this week said in Japan men’s spending on makeup increased 20 percent per month this year. Neon manicures are a trend that started this summer, offering boldness in accents as an alternative to wearing them.

Image: Dior makeup

In activewear, neons have traditionally had a safety purpose, such as reflecting lights and making one visible in the dark, but now they are making a fashion statement too. The much awaited debut of Kanye West’s Gap collaboration launched with an electric blue neon puffa jacket. Illuminating colours have livened up outdoor clothing ranges, no more blending in with nature when one can be full on glowing.

Radical self expression

The thing about neons is they demand attention. Whether it is to warn of a hazard or drawing in consumers in new gaming realms. According to fashion forecaster WGSN, consumers are “hungry for products and experiences that bring extravagance to the everyday” and are “moving away from the neutrals that comforted them through global lockdowns, to the unambiguous brights that feed into themes of unapologetic exhilaration and radical self-expression.”

The shift to brights began last season when the power of colour was used as an antidote to the bleakest of years. For the spring shows, Edited’s analysis showed strong blues at Kenzo and Longchamp while Balmain showcased vibrant neon pink and green suiting. Highlighter hues also popped up at Mark Fast and Sportsmax and on graphics at Chanel. All-over citrus was favoured by Ricostru and Harlem’s Fashion Row, while Tom Ford and Prada embraced jewel tones.

The future, it seems, is bright and colourful.

Image: The North Face neon sign
The North Face