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Pantone names two Colours of the Year for 2021

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Global colour authority, Pantone has named ‘Ultimate Gray’ and an ‘Illuminating’ yellow as its colours of the year 2021. The two independent colours come together to create “an aspirational colour pairing” explains Pantone, “conjoining deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the optimistic promise of a sunshine filled day”.

The two colours, a cool grey and a cheerful yellow shade are described as a “marriage of colour conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting” and were selected to give people a way to “fortify themselves with energy, clarity and hope to overcome the continuing uncertainty”.

‘Illuminating’ is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, “a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power,” explains Pantone. While ‘Ultimate Gray’ is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation, it also “quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience”. 

Both together will offer unity, stability and hope for 2021, states the global colour authority.

Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, said in a statement: “The selection of two independent colours highlight how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one colour or one person, it’s about more than one. 

“The union of an enduring ‘Ultimate Gray’ with the vibrant yellow ‘Illuminating’ expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude. Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a colour combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted, this is essential to the human spirit.”

Pantone unveils ‘Ultimate Gray’ and ‘Illuminating’ yellow as its colours of the year 2021

While both colours are a marriage of strength and optimism, Pantone explains that ‘Ultimate Gray’ and ‘Illuminating’ do not have to be used in equal proportions, either colour can take precedence whether for apparel, beauty, home furnishings, product design or packaging. 

Using the colours for apparel and fashion accessories can convey a message of sunshine and strength when ‘Illuminating’ is punctuated by a touch of ‘Ultimate Gray’. Pantone adds that ‘Ultimate Gray’ provides a “great bouncing off point” with ‘Illuminating’ “bringing in some brightness” by way of a scarf, footwear, handbag, shawl, tops. 

‘Ultimate Gray’ and ‘Illuminating’ are a great combination for activewear, due to its combined “energetic presence,” while the “high visibility contrast” also makes the two colours appeal for outerwear.

In beauty, the two colours offer a mix of warm and cool tones and can be combined in hair or nail to make a “dramatic statement”. ‘Illuminating’ also sparkles and shimmers when paired with ‘Ultimate Gray’ in eye make-up.  Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, added: “The Pantone Color of the Year reflects what is taking place in our global culture, expressing what people are looking for that colour can hope to answer.
 “As society continues to recognise colour as a critical form of communication, and a way to symbolise thoughts and ideas, many designers and brands are embracing the language of colour to engage and connect.”

‘Ultimate Gray’ and ‘Illuminating’ for 2021 follows up Pantone’s “solid and dependable” Classic Blue for 2020, which was chosen as it offered a “reassuring presence instilling calm, confidence, and connection”.

Previous colours of the year have included a peachy ‘Living Coral’ hue, a vibrant purple ‘Ultraviolet’, and a zesty shade of green called ‘Greenery’.

To explore the grey and yellow collection items on the FashionUnited Marketplace click here.

Images: courtesy of Pantone